PH imports fell by 3.3% in March
NSO reports balance of trade at deficit of $1.05BBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The country’s imports fell 3.3 percent to $5.371 billion in March, from the $5.553 billion registered in the same month last year, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said Friday.
Still, the value of imports in March was the highest since April last year, the NSO added.
Month on month, inbound shipments increased 7.5 percent from the $4.996 billion reported in February. This brought imports for the first three months of the year to $15.501 billion—a 1.5-percent decline from the $15.732 billion reported in the first quarter of 2011.
The country posted a trade deficit of $1.05 billion in March, bringing the first quarter’s deficit to $2.63 billion, data from the statistics agency showed.
Radhika Rao, an economist of Forecast PTE, Singapore, said producers would look for a sustained recovery in exports before actively building up stocks.
Rao expected export growth to slow, with weakness in regional Asian currencies not providing much help.
“March imports came in close to our expectations,” Rao said. “With US and European consumers still facing domestic challenges, weak demand conditions will slow the pace of improvement in Asian exports.”
The bulk of the imports in March consisted of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, amounting to $1.543 billion. The NSO reported that the value of these goods represented a 74.4-percent jump from the $884.45 million worth of products shipped in last year.
Electronic products only came in second during the month, registering a contraction of 38.7 percent to $1.259 billion from $2.054 billion in March 2011.
Transport equipment ($327.85 million), industrial machinery and equipment ($252.76 million), chemicals ($145.54 million), plastics ($140.95 million), cereals ($126.37 million), iron and steel ($117.47 million), telecommunications equipment and electrical machinery ($106.37 million), and medicinal and pharmaceutical products ($84.79 million) rounded up the top ten imports.
Aggregate payment for the country’s top ten imports that month reached $4.104 billion, or 76.4 percent of the total import bill, the NSO said.
Japan was the biggest source of imports in March, accounting for 10.9 percent share of the total import bill amounting to $583.43 million. Exports to Japan amounted to $685.17 million, yielding a two-way trade value of $1.269 billion and a trade surplus for the Philippines worth $101.74 million.
China ($562.49 million), Saudi Arabia ($507.85 million), The United States ($489.94 million) and Singapore ($363.54 million) rounded up the top five sources of imports for the Philippines.
“I am surprised [with the decrease in the March numbers],” Cid L. Terosa of the University of Asia and the Pacific said via text message. “Nonetheless, the contraction is minimal. I believe the figures will improve after the first half. The export and import forecasts are still attainable. The world economy and world market will show better prospects after the first half.”
Earlier, the NSO reported that exports dipped 0.8 percent to $4.323 billion in March 2012 from $4.356 billion in the same month last year.
Thus, the balance of trade in goods for the Philippines in March came in at a deficit of $1.049 billion from $1.196 billion deficit in the same period last year. Total external trade in goods for March reached $9.694 billion, representing a 2.2-percent decrease from $9.909 billion recorded in the same month last year, NSO said.—With a report from Reuters
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