MALAYSIAN exports in January jumped 37 per cent from a year ago, on improved demand for electrical and electronic products to countries like China and the European Union.
The latest trade figures, which benefited from low numbers last year, beat market expectations. A Business Times poll expected a 33.82 per cent average growth for exports and a 33.6 per cent growth for imports.
The International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, in a statement yesterday, said the increase was largely due to higher exports of electrical and electronic (E&E) products, which jumped 55.6 per cent.
The other sectors that expanded included palm oil (43.8 per cent or RM1.21 billion), chemicals and chemical products (50 per cent or RM1.06 billion) and refined petroleum products (60.4 per cent or RM700.9 million).
Exports to Asean in January expanded by 44.2 per cent, accounting for a quarter of Malaysia's total exports. CIMB Investment Bank chief economist Lee Heng Guie said exports would continue rising by double digits in the first half, due to the base effects.
CIMB expects exports to grow 10 per cent this year, better than MITI's forecast of a 6 to 7 per cent growth. Kenanga Investment Bank economist Wan Suhaimie Wan Saidie, however, thinks the true measure of exports will be seen once the base effect disappears.
Fortunately for Malaysia, the Chinese market has been an added support. If the January figures were compared with December 2009 numbers, exports actually fell by 4.1 per cent.
Wan Suhaimie said it was too early to say if there is a pattern, although another two months of contractions could slow the current growth momentum.