Imports fell 5.8% in February to $4.71B

Economist says data suggest weakness in future exports

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The country’s merchandise imports fell 5.8 percent to $4.71 billion last February from $5 billion in the same month last year, the National Statistics Office reported yesterday. This was the second consecutive monthly drop after the 8-percent contraction in January.

Total imports for the first two months of 2013 declined by 6.9 percent to $9.44 billion from $10.13 billion a year ago. Three major exports continued to contract–mineral fuels, lubricants and related products by 8.2 percent; transport equipment by 9.1 percent, and metal ores and scraps by 32.7 percent.

“For the period, electronic product imports declined to $2.39 billion from $2.76 billion in 2012 or by 13.3 percent. This development doesn’t augur well for Philippine exports,” said Benjamin Diokno of the UP School of Economics. Diokno said this suggested the external trade sector would continue to experience weakness in the first quarter.

Economic growth for the first quarter might have to rely heavily on domestic factors, Diokno added. “In the light of these actual numbers representing one-sixth of potential total imports for the year, my previous forecast of 7-percent imports growth for 2013 is more likely than the government’s revised forecast of 12 percent,” Diokno said.

For February alone, NSO said that eight of 10 major commodity groups contracted–transport equipment; organic and inorganic chemicals; plastics in primary and non-primary forms; electronic products; iron and steel; telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery; industrial machinery and equipment, and other food and live animals.

Electronics imports in February amounted to $1.25 billion, down 12.6 percent from $1.43 billion. Among the major groups of electronic products, semiconductors decreased by 10.5 percent to $948.99 million last February from $1.06 billion a year ago. Mineral fuels, lubricants and related products grew 20.2 percent, transport equipment dropped 31.1 percent, industrial machinery and equipment shrank 5.2 percent, other food and live animals fell 2.1 percent.

The United States was the country’s biggest source of imports (comprising electronic products, feeding stuff for animals and wheat) for February, growing 0.8 percent to $547.43 million from $542.92 million a year ago. Imports from China, made up of mineral products and telecommunication equipment, grew 21.7 percent to $542.44 million. Imports from Japan, mostly semiconductors, contracted 33.4 percent to $444.38 million. Imports from Singapore (mainly mineral fuels, lubricants and semiconductors) dropped 1.9 percent to $415.9 million.

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