Year-on-year, exports surged 4.8 percent to MYR 83.3 billion in December of 2018, after a 1.6 percent gain in November and better than market consensus of a 2.4 percent rise. Shipments were sustained by demand for manufactured goods, namely electrical and electronic goods (14.2 percent); chemicals and chemical products (36.6 percent); crude petroleum (17.5 percent); optical and scientific equipment (14.6 percent); machinery (7.6 percent) and rubber products (4.8 percent). Conversely, declines were registered for: palm oil and palm oil-based products (-24.4 percent); refined petroleum products (-5.3 percent); liquefied natural gas (LNG) (-2.7 percent) and natural rubber (-15.7 percent). External sales rose to the US (13.5 percent), Singapore (12.2 percent) and Hong Kong (25.6 percent) but fell to China (-0.5 percent) and Japan (-6.4 percent).
Imports increased 1 percent from a year earlier to MYR 72.8 billion, following a 5 percent jump in the prior month and below estimates of a 1.3 percent gain. Purchases advanced for intermediate goods (3.1 percent), especially industrial supplies, processed (10 percent); industrial supplies, primary (28.6 percent) and fuels & lubricants,primary (19.1 percent); and consumer goods (5.7 percent), namely food and beverages for household consumption (17.4 percent). Meanwhile, a sharp decrease was recorded for capital goods (-21.7 percent), namely transport equipment (-75.9 percent).
Considering the full year of 2018, the trade surplus surged 22.1 percent to MYR 120.3 billion compared to MYR 98.5 billion in 2017, the fastest rate in a decade. It is the 21st consecutive year of trade surplus since 1998 and in 2018 the country posted the largest tarde surplus since 2012. Exports grew 6.7 percent and purchases increased at a slower 4.9 percent. Asean remained an important and strategic trading partner for Malaysia, accounting for 27.1% of Malaysia’s total trade in 2018, valued at MYR 509.2 billion; and Malaysia’s trade with China amounted to MYR 313.81 billion.
Malaysia’s total trade is projected to grow moderately by 5 percent in 2019 from 5.9 percent in 2018 due to uncertainties in the global market, said the International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking.