March 10, 2017 / 3:03 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Philippines Jan exports rise at fastest pace in 3 years

* January imports rise for 24th month in a row

* Trade deficit narrows to $2.314 bln

By Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, March 10 (Reuters) - Philippine exports rose at their quickest pace in three years in January on demand for technology goods and commodities, while continuing strong imports underlined a buoyant domestic economy.

The Southeast Asian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and strengthening global trade could complement robust domestic consumption as President Rodrigo Duterte’s government aims to sustain annual growth above 7 percent during his six-year term.

Exports in January rose 22.5 percent from a year earlier, gaining for a second month in a row, while imports jumped 9.1 percent, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed on Friday.

The country’s trade deficit narrowed to $2.314 billion from $2.638 billion a year ago. An improving trade balance would help bolster the peso, emerging Asia’s second-worst performing currency last year. The peso was mostly unchanged on the data.

Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank, said the spike in exports was largely in line with the strength in shipments elsewhere in Asia.

“There is a confluence of low-base effect and also seasonal uptick that went into the end of last year,” he said.

Eight of the country’s top 10 export products rose in January, with electronics up 10.4 percent from a year earlier. Electronics remained the country’s No. 1 export, accounting for 46.1 percent of total revenue in January.

The country’s biggest imports for the month were electronics, mineral fuels, transport equipment, industrial machinery, and iron and steel.

Exports to the country’s top trading partners such as the United States and China increased 21.2 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively, in January from a year earlier. Shipments to Japan, the biggest export market, fell 6.6 percent.

While the Philippine economy is largely driven by domestic consumption, Varathan said it would also be buffeted by any change in external trends.

“We want to see how trade negotiations between the U.S. and China pan out and the corresponding knock-on effect that you’ll see in Asia,” Varathan said. (Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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