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December external trade in goods slowest in three years as exports, imports contract


Trade activity in December marked its weakest in three years, as exports and imports both declined.

Preliminary results from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed merchandise exports declining 12.3% to $4.720 billion in December, slower than the 0.3% dip in November and a reversal of the 8.4% growth in December 2017.

The export decline in December was the biggest in 11 quarters when it registered a 13% decline in March 2016.

Likewise, imports contracted by 9.4% year on year to $8.473 billion during the month, a turnaround from the 6.8% growth in November and 25.9% growth in the same month in 2017.

The import decline was the first since July 2017’s 0.3% and was the largest in 3 years, or since December 2015’s -26%.

This brought the country’s trade deficit for December to $3.752 billion, narrowing from $3.972 billion a year ago.

Meanwhile, the country’s total external trade in goods – or the sum of export and import goods – shrank 10.5% to $13.194 billion. The December trade activity was the weakest in three years, or since the 15.15% plunge in December 2015.

To date, exports were down 1.8% to $67.488 billion, way off the two-percent target of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) for full-year 2018.

On the other hand, imports grew 13.4% to $108.928 billion versus the DBCC’s nine percent projection for the year.

Cumulatively, the country’s trade balance posted a record-high $41.440 billion deficit in 2018 versus the $27.380 billion and $26.702 billion shortfalls in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

The United States is the Philippines’ top export market in December with a 16.4% share at $774.37 million followed by Japan’s 14.5% ($684.75 million) and Hong Kong’s 14% ($662.77 million).

Meanwhile, China was the country’s top source of imports with an 22.1% share ($1.87 billion) followed by Japan’s 9.7% ($826.05 million) and South Korea’s 9.2% ($775.56 million). — Marissa Mae M. Ramos









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