Exports bounced in November with a growth of 3.3 per cent on the back of higher demand for refined petroleum products.
The International Trade and Industry Ministry said imports were also higher in the month, recording a 4.3 per cent growth while total trade expanded by 3.7 per cent from November 2011 to RM108.06 billion.
It attributed the rise in volume to higher trade with Asean which rose by RM2.06 billion, China (RM1.79 billion) and India (RM1.6 billion).
Manufactured goods, which make up about 67.1 per cent, rose by 5.2 per cent led by transport equipment, optical and scientific equipment as well as electrical and electronics (E & E) products.
TA Research economist Patricia Oh, however, said that despite the rebound in trade during the month, overall exports grew by a meagre 1.3 per cent as at year-to-date November 2012.
Global electrical and electronics sales had been lacklustre which resulted in a drag on Malaysia's exports during 2012.
Looking forward, she said overseas shipments appear to be improving and will probably gain momentum this year.
"Aside from Europe, we note that the manufacturing division in other parts of the world has been gathering strength.
"Combined with the improvements seen in the US, global demand will bolster well for overall trade during this fiscal year."
Dr Chua Hak Bin of Bank of America Merrill Lynch observed falls in liquefied natural gas (-7.7 per cent) and palm oil (-2.1 per cent) although the pace of contraction moderated for palm oil.
According to the International Trade and Industry Ministry, exports of agricultural goods fell by 6.6 per cent to RM6.99 billion, primarily due to lower exports of crude rubber and palm oil. The research house was however, more optimistic for 2013.
"We are forecasting higher export growth of about 7.1 per cent in 2013 on the back of stronger Asian growth and better commodity prices.
"Recent cut in export duties for palm oil (to zero from 23 per cent) should also help boost palm oil exports," commented Chua.
CIMB Investment Bank regional head Lee Heng Guie, however, described the export rebound as weak, weighed down by the softening commodity prices, along with the persistent drag from electrical and electronics products.
CIMB has projected exports to grow by four to five per cent for 2013 from a projected one per cent to 1.5 per cent for 2012.
China was the largest export market in November, with exports amounting to RM7.73 billion due mainly to higher manufactured goods especially chemicals and chemical products and rubber products.
Exports to the US continued to register positive growth for the seventh consecutive month since May 2012, with 11 per cent rise compared with November 2011.
The rise was contributed to mainly by E&E products, which expanded by 18.4 per cent, primarily electronic integrated circuits and photosensitive semiconductor devices.
Exports to Japan were lower by 16.2 per cent to RM6.35 billion compared with a year ago, owing to lower exports of LNG and E&E products, while exports to the EU also decreased by 11.3 per cent.