February 4, 2020 / 5:14 AM / in 19 days

Malaysia's December exports rise for first time since July

FILE PHOTO - Malaysia's flag is seen at the landmark Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s exports rose for the first time in five months in December on higher demand for manufactured and agriculture goods, government data showed on Tuesday.

The export growth was a welcome reprieve for Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, which struggled for most of the second half of 2019 on poor demand for its manufactured products and oil and gas shipments.

Exports expanded 2.7% from a year earlier, compared with a 1.0% fall forecast by analysts surveyed in a Reuters poll, and November’s 5.5% contraction.

Trade surplus was 12.6 billion ringgit ($3.06 billion), up from 6.5 billion ringgit in the previous month, according to data from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. The country reports trade data in ringgit.

December imports rose 0.9% from a year earlier, up from the 3.6% decline seen in November. The poll of 12 economists had forecast imports to grow 1.7% and a trade balance of 9.1 billion ringgit.

Full-year exports fell 1.7%, dragged by contracting demand during August-November, while imports dipped 3.5%. Trade surplus grew 11% to 137.4 billion ringgit, the largest since 2009, and up from 120.3 billion ringgit in 2018.

Shipments of manufactured goods accounted for 84.4% of December’s exports, boosted by demand for petroleum products, palm oil and palm oil-based agriculture products, and optical and scientific equipment.

Exports to major markets rose in December. Shipments to China, Malaysia’s biggest trading partner, jumped 17.8%, up from 4.1% in the previous month. Exports to the United States were up 15.1% on year.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Subhranshu Sahu

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