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Malaysia likely to sustain 2011 trade performance [08-02-2013]  
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MALAYSIA is expected to sustain the trade performance it achieved in 2011, despite the continued global external uncertainties, when the 2012 data is released today.

Economists, however, expect the December 2012 data to slow, in keeping with the trend across the region.

A Business Times poll expects the fourth quarter to post a 1.34 per cent average growth in exports, supported by a 1.02 per cent growth in imports, while the trade balance is expected to average RM8.59 billion.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed will announce the details of the performance.

"Exports likely slowed in line with trends across Asia, though any downside could be capped by strong performance to some major markets," Citi wrote in a report.

China's imports from Malaysia rose into expansion (from 3.9 per cent year-on-year compared to -13.1 per cent in November) and the decline in Japan's imports from Malaysia moderated (-6.9 per cent in December from -16.7 per cent in November) even as Singapore's imports from Malaysia remained broadly stable (-0.4 per cent year-on-year in December from zero per cent in November).

But Citi said imports growth likely slowed as Japan's exports to Malaysia plunged (-16.5 per cent in December from -10.9 per cent in November) along with Singapore's (-16.1 per cent in December from -6.2 per cent).

It, however, noted that the downside will likely be capped by the surge in China's exports to Malaysia (43.6 per cent year-on-year in December from 18.6 per cent in November).

OCBC Bank economist Gundy Cahyadi said although the November IPI and export growth data came in very much encouraging, there was nothing "extremely loud" enough to change the research house's view on external growth outlook going forward.

"On sequential terms, growth in exports remain somewhat weak and we don't expect a quick turnaround anytime soon."

Dr Chua Hak Bin, Asean economist with the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said exports probably moderated slightly, expanding at a decent three per cent clip in December.

"Improving global tech demand is lifting electronic exports.

"Lower palm oil export tax at zero per cent from January may, however, have held back CPO shipments until 2013," he said, adding that imports probably grew 3.9 per cent, given robust domestic demand.

The trade surplus, he added, probably remained wide, at about RM8.1 billion.

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