KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Malaysia's exports in March grew faster than expected on the back of improvements in all major export sectors.
March exports rose 24.1% from a year earlier, up by double-digits for the fourth-straight month, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said in a statement Friday. This compared with a 20.5% rise forecast by a Wall Street Journal poll of seven economists. In February, exports grew 26.5%--the fastest pace in more than five years.
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Compared with the previous month, March exports were up 15.1%.
Export products across all major sectors registered double-digit growth in March. Shipments of electrical and electronics products rose 21.2% on-year, petroleum products climbed 52.8%, and palm oil and palm oil-based agriculture products jumped 22.9%, among others.
Exports to China, one of Malaysia's largest trading partners, rose 40.3%. Stronger shipments of petroleum products, electrical and electronics, rubber products as well as chemicals and chemical products collectively contributed 70% of Malaysia's total exports to the country.
Exports to the U.S. grew 16.5% in March, mainly driven by an increase in shipments of electrical and electronics products, rubber products as well as optical and scientific equipment.
The faster-than-expected export growth adds to encouraging signs of economic expansion in Southeast Asia's third-largest economy.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in February that the economy is expected to expand at a faster rate this year, after posting strong gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter. Malaysia's GDP grew 4.5% in the three months ended December, lifting 2016 growth to 4.2%.
Malaysia is due to announce GDP growth for the first quarter ended March on May 19 at 0400 GMT.
Imports rose 39.4% in March from a year ago, boosted by higher imports of intermediate, capital and consumption goods, the statement said. The economists surveyed had predicted a 28.2% increase and imports in February rose 27.7%.
The trade surplus narrowed to 5.41 billion ringgit ($1.25 billion) in March from MYR8.71 billion in February. Economists had expected a surplus of MYR9.50 billion.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 05, 2017 00:14 ET (04:14 GMT)