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Malaysia exports surge 32.5% in May

Electronics-led pickup expected to continue for next few months

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A container yard at North Port in Port Klang outside Kuala Lumpur   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's exports in May swelled 32.5% on the year to 79.4 billion ringgit ($18.5 billion), largely driven by demand for manufactured goods, the country's trade ministry said on Friday.

The growth beat the 24% recorded two months earlier and the median estimate of 21% in a poll by Nikkei Markets.

Exports of electrical and electronic gear led the way, increasing 31% to 28.5 billion ringgit and accounting for over a third of total exports.

Petroleum exports ballooned 88%, while those of agricultural products climbed 25%.

Singapore was the largest market for Malaysian exports. It bought 12.3 billion ringgit worth of goods, a leap of 45% from May 2016. China was the No. 2 buyer at 10.7 billion ringgit, the U.S. No. 3 at 7.4 billion ringgit and Japan next at 4.8 billion ringgit.

On a regional basis, exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations grew 34% to 24.1 billion ringgit. Those to the European Union went up by 30% to 8 billion ringgit.

Meanwhile, imports grew 30% to 73.9 billion ringgit, underpinned by shipments of intermediate goods, including electrical machinery and equipment.

The country's trade surplus tapered to 5.5 billion ringgit, from 8.6 billion ringgit in April. The gap was wider than the 3.3 billion ringgit recorded the same month last year.

Leading economic indicators in June suggest Malaysia's electronics-led pickup in exports will continue over the next few months, the Nomura Group said in a global markets research report.

Economist Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit said Malaysia's strong export performance will drive up the country's gross domestic product in 2017. He is now forecasting GDP growth of 4.9% for this year. The country recorded growth of 4.2% in 2016.

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