Malaysia’s Exports Unexpectedly Fall, Output Growth Slows

Malaysia’s exports unexpectedly dropped in December amid fewer shipments to the U.S. and China, while industrial production rose less than economists estimated.

Overseas shipments fell 5.8 percent from a year earlier after rising a revised 2.3 percent in November, the Trade Ministry said today. The median of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 1.4 percent increase. Output rose 3.7 percent from a year earlier, a separate report showed, lower than the median forecast of 6 percent in another survey.

Malaysia’s export-dependent economy remains vulnerable to fluctuations in global demand as the U.S. debates spending cuts and Europe continues to struggle with a debt crisis. Still, the government expects overseas shipments to improve this year for exporters of goods including automotive components, commodities and semiconductors.

“Electronics and electronic components were a little weaker than expected in December and really led to the decline,” said Daniel Wilson, an economist with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Singapore. “It was a soft figure to finish off 2012, but we are fairly bullish on the Malaysian growth story. We didn’t see quite a sharp fall off on industrial production which signals domestic demand is still quite robust.”

Malaysia’s exports of goods may rise 2 percent to 4 percent in 2013, Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said in a briefing in Kuala Lumpur today. He reiterated a government forecast for the economy to expand 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year.

GDP Growth

Gross domestic product growth in 2012 probably exceeded the government’s forecast of as much as 5 percent, Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah said yesterday.

Imports fell 6.5 percent in December from a year earlier, after gaining 4.3 percent the previous month, today’s report showed. The trade surplus narrowed to 8.2 billion ringgit ($2.7 billion) from a revised 8.74 billion ringgit in November.

Output at factories, utilities and mines were forecast to rise 6 percent, according to the median of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Manufacturing output gained 4.6 percent in December from a year earlier, today’s report showed. Mining rose 0.9 percent, while electricity production grew 5.6 percent.

Manufacturing sales increased 6 percent in December from a year earlier, after gaining a revised 7.1 percent gain in November, the statistics department said in a separate report.

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