KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia's exports in January grew 17.9 percent year-on-year to 82.86 billion ringgit (21.26 billion U.S. dollars) as exports of electrical and electronics (E&E) remains strong.
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) said on Monday that expansion in exports in January was driven mainly by growth in all major sectors.
Manufactured goods, which accounted for 82.5 percent share of Malaysia's total exports surged 20.4 percent year-on-year. The main contributors to the increase were exports of E&E products, which rose 27.1 percent.
Mining and agriculture goods exports were also up 8.5 percent and 6.2 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's imports in January expanded 11.6 percent to 73.15 billion ringgit, resulting in a trade surplus of 9.71 billion ringgit.
Malaysia's trade in January also surged 14.9 percent year-on-year to 156.01 billion ringgit as trade with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the European Union (EU), China, India and South Korea expanded.
Malaysia's trade with China rose 8.5 percent year-on-year to 25.33 billion ringgit. Its exports to China surged 17.9 percent to 10.1 billion ringgit driven by E&E products, chemicals and chemical products as well as optical and scientific equipment exports.
Malaysia's imports from China increased by 3.1 percent to 15.23 billion ringgit, supported by E&E products, machinery, equipment and parts as well as manufactures of metal.
Malaysia's trade with ASEAN in January expanded 16.2 percent year-on-year to 42.98 billion ringgit, with its exports to the region up 15.6 percent. Its trade with the EU also surged 20.5 percent year-on-year to 15.52 billion ringgit, with its exports to the region growing 13.6 percent
"The January exports growth is above our expectation. However, it may be due to seasonal effect as we have a shorter trading month in February," UOB Malaysia economist Julia Goh told Xinhua.
Goh remained cautious on Malaysia's exports growth as growing protectionism may weigh on global trade momentum.
She maintained her views that Malaysia's export growth to slow down to 9 percent in 2018, from last year's 18.9 percent.
Affin Investment Bank's chief economist Alan Tan, however, opined that the better-than-expected exports growth suggested that Malaysian economy continued to enjoy broad-based global recovery.
"Malaysia's strong exports momentum (double-digit growth) is likely to sustain in the first half. However, the growth may trend lower in the second half due to high base effect," he told Xinhua.
He did not expect the U.S. recent protectionism measures to have significant impact on Malaysia's exports, but he stayed cautious as any retaliation move from other major economies may pose downside risk.
Due to high-base effect, Tan maintains his exports growth forecast of 7 percent, and expects the country to grow at 5.3 percent this year, which was slower when compared with 5.9 percent last year.