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YoY export plunged back above-20% in Apr 09. It fell 26.3% YoY
compared with the slower 16% and 15.7% YoY declines in Feb and
Mar respectively after the 29% YoY collapse in Jan. The high base
effect last year was a factor (Apr 08: +20.9% YoY – one of the three
months of over-20% YoY increase in 2008), mostly from sharp gains in
commodity prices was a factor.
But YoY fall in imports eased, resulting in smaller trade surplus
for the month. Imports were down by a smaller quantum of 22.4%
YoY (Mar 09: -28.7% YoY), causing the trade surplus to narrow to
RM7.36b (Mar 09: +RM12.5b).
Overall “better” MoM trends. Although sequentially exports dipped
5.6% after the increases in Mar (+10.1%) and Feb (+3.4%), the decline
was mild relative to the average monthly drop of 11% between Oct 08
and Jan 09. Shipments of key exports like E&E, palm oil and chemical
& chemical products have now recorded MoM rises for 2-3 months up
to Apr. Meanwhile, lower oil & gas-related exports such as crude oil,
refined petroleum products and LNG in Apr versus Mar was mainly due
to maintenance works. Imports recorded their second consecutive
MoM increase, rising 8.8% after the 12.8% jump in Feb that ended five
straight months of declines.
Year-to-date numbers prompt revisions to full-year figures. For
Jan-Apr 09, exports and imports shrank by 21.7% YoY and 27.3% YoY
versus +12.6% YoY and +7% YoY in Jan-Apr 08. The trade surplus
during the period was RM40.1b (Jan-Apr 08: +RM39.1b). Factoring in
the data for the first trimester of the year, we have adjusted our full-year
forecast to 19.5 export contraction (previous: -16%; 2008: 9.6%),
24.5% import decline (previous: -13.2%; 2008: 3.3%) and a RM140.3b
trade surplus (previous: RM104.7b; 2008: RM141.9b).
Mixed bag of data suggests external trade activities are
stabilising. The mixed bag of data of late has a nicer ring compared
with the consistently negative YoY and MoM numbers between Oct 08
and Jan 09. This could which suggest external trade activities are
stabilising after the earlier plunges.