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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                          2  September 2011

Malaysian exports led by commodities

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Demand for commodities from China and India will remain the main pillar of support for Malaysia's exports in July as in the previous month with the export-reliant manufacturing sector continuing to feel the impact from a drop in sales of consumer electric and electronic (E&E) goods from the United States and Europe.

Commodity exports account for roughly 40 percent of the country's exports.

According to Singapore-based economists, the exports front would remain volatile with July's data to mirror June's to a certain extent although exports could weaken further in August based on commodity futures prices, which have trended downward in recent months.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd economist Gundy Cahyadi said that exports would be held up by commodities but the pace of growth could be slower compared with June.

“This is quite clear cut for exporters in Asean and this will likely be the case for Malaysia too,” he said, adding that the high proportion of commodities in Malaysia and Indonesia's exports had provided a buffer for exports.

Gundy said the rise in commodity exports must also be put into perspective as prior to the recent decline in prices, commodity prices were rising year-on-year, which in turn had lent support to exporters such as Malaysia.

For June, exports climbed 8.6 percent year-on-year compared with May's 5.4%, higher than a Bloomberg survey for a 5.8 percent rise. The growth in exports was largely due to intra-regional trade in commodities.

Gundy said although commodity prices were less price-sensitive compared with manufactured goods, this did not mean that prices would not come down should global growth slowed further.

United Overseas Bank Ltd economist Ho Woei Chen said consumer demand and infrastructure development in China would still be the best bet for Asean's export-reliant economies. “This is because China should not have a problem sustaining growth at between 8% and 9%,” she added.

However, Ho believes that Malaysia's exports could face even more challenges ahead as commodity futures have trended downwards in recent months. “This will impact August's export numbers as forward manufacturing indicators such as the industrial production index (measuring factory output) will still be low,” she said.


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