Philippine exports up in May; trade deficit narrows further on imports drop

MANILA, NNA – Philippine exports in May were up year-on-year for the second straight month while the trade deficit continued to narrow on a decline in imports, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority released Wednesday showed.

The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority said it is confident the country’s trade performance will recover in the second quarter with prospects for more solid economic growth.

Key points:

-- Exports totaled $6.16 billion in May, up 1 percent from $6.09 billion during the same month a year earlier. The rise was led by copper concentrates (+192.1%), wiring sets used in vehicles, aircraft and ships (+31.7%), fresh bananas (+28.6%) and chemicals (+20.1%). Electronics remained the top export item, with $3.45 billion, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier.

-- “The slight pick-up in exports may be attributed to diversification of the country’s export items and export destinations, as well as improved trade and diplomatic relations with major export markets, such as Japan, China, South Korea, the U.S., and other Asian countries,” RCBC economist Michael Ricafort said.

-- Exports to the United States rose 9.8 percent to $1.08 billion, followed by China at $896.95 million, Japan at $862.15 million, Hong Kong at $764.83 million and Singapore at $329.17 million.

-- Imports dropped 5.4 percent to $9.43 billion from $9.97 billion. The decline was due to reduced purchases of iron and steel (-25.5%), transport equipment (-19.3%), mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (17.2%), plastic in primary and non-primary forms (-13.7%), industrial machinery and equipment (-4.8%) and food and live animals (-3.7%).

-- The drop in imports was caused by slower global growth amid the U.S.-China trade dispute and the uncertainty over Brexit, Ricafort said.

-- The trade deficit narrowed further to $3.28 billion in May from $3.88 billion a year earlier.

Takeaway:

-- The National Economic and Development Authority sees trade performance recovering in the coming months, citing above 6-percent GDP growth estimates for the Philippines from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

-- “The global economic outlook for 2019 remains subdued as policy uncertainties and some geopolitical tensions continue to pose risks to many economies,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in a statement. “But amid these external developments, the country’s economic outlook remains upbeat.”

-- Ricafort said exports are expected to grow further as the country continues to diversify export products and markets, and that imports could pick up with public works spending.

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