Released along with the IPI yesterday, the trade numbers are a little more satisfying, at least in terms of having something to talk about (log annual and monthly changes; seasonally adjusted):
Growth in exports continued to remain anaemic at just 3.1% in log terms, though at least there’s some positive movement on the month. Imports on the other hand showed something more interesting – a 14.4% spike compared to last year. The monthly change was an even more massive 18.9%.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, you can probably chalk this one down to the base effect and last year’s CNY (RM millions):
Imports of intermediate goods have moved higher, but only back to the same range as in 2011 and early 2012. Imports of consumption and capital goods on the other hand are little changed at all. Much of the “growth” we’re seeing is due to the synchronised downturn in imports in January 2012.
Nevertheless, the confluence of low export growth and “high” import growth has brought the trade balance back down to earth (RM millions):
I think we’re going to have to get used to a permanently lower level of trade surplus going forward, unless there’s some movement in terms of global commodity prices.
January 2013 External Trade report from MATRADE