Trade gap widened to $3.32B in January
Imports continued to outpace exports in January, sustaining the trade deficit that put pressure on the peso at the start of the year.
The Philippine Statistics Authority yesterday that the total external trade in goods in January grew 7 percent to $13.75 billion from $12.85 billion a year ago, slower than the 16-percent increase a year ago.
Merchandise exports during the month inched up 0.5 percent to $5.22 billion from $5.19 billion a year ago, also slower than the 22-percent jump in 2017.
Imports of goods in the same month rose 11.4 percent to $8.54 billion from $7.67 billion a year ago, slightly slower than the 12.2-percent climb in January last year.
As import receipts surpassed the amount of exports, the balance of trade in goods in January remained at a deficit of $3.32 billion, 34.3-percent wider than the $2.47 billion a year ago.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, earlier said the widening trade deficit was “not good, but it is transitory and manageable.”
Last year, imports jumped 10.2 percent to $92.7 billion, outpacing the 9.5-percent growth in exports to $62.9 billion, resulting in a record-high trade-in-goods deficit of $29.8 billion.
The surge in imports had reversed the current account to a deficit, which had the market worried and pulled the peso weaker in recent months.
At end-January, the peso depreciated to 51.341:$1 from end-2017’s 49.958:$1.
A component of the balance of payments, the current account was expected to swing to a $100-million deficit in 2017 from the $600-million surplus in 2016 amid the government’s push to ramp up infrastructure investments leading to a surge in imports of capital goods.
This year, the current account deficit is seen to swell to $700 million.
Economic managers had said that as the administration embarked on the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and with expectations of sustained robust economic growth, demand for imports would remain strong in the near term.
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