KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia's annual export growth in March slowed slightly from the previous month, government data showed on Friday, but the pace of expansion remained robust on higher shipments of manufactured, mining and agricultural goods.
Exports in March rose 24.1 percent from a year earlier, beating economists' forecast of a 19.2 percent rise, but were down slightly from the 26.5 percent increase recorded in February, the fastest annual pace in nearly seven years.
Data from the International Trade and Industry Ministry showed a new milestone in export performance, with shipments topping 80 billion ringgit ($18.46 billion) for the first time.
Exports of manufactured products grew 22.1 percent year-on-year, the data showed, while shipments of mining goods jumped 36.1 percent on higher volumes and prices of crude oil and liquefied natural gas.
Exports of agriculture goods rose 25.4 percent on increased shipments of palm oil and palm-oil based products and natural rubber.
March imports jumped 39.4 percent from a year earlier, the highest annual increase in seven years, and up from the 27.7 percent increase recorded the previous month.
The trade surplus in March narrowed to 5.4 billion ringgit ($1.25 billion), from February's 8.7 billion ringgit.
Exports to China jumped 40.3 percent from a year earlier, due to higher shipments of petroleum products, electrical and electronic products, rubber and chemicals.
Exports to the United States rose 16.5 percent on rising demand for electrical and electronic products, while those to the European Union grew 28.1 percent.
For a graphic on Malaysia's exports and imports, click: link.reuters.com/xyb28s
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Sunil Nair)