Tue, Feb 04, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Indonesian trade surplus rises as economy picks up

AFP, Jakarta

An employee assembles a multi-purpose vehicle at the PT Honda Prospect Motor factory in Karawang, Indonesia, on Jan. 15.

Photo: Bloomberg

Indonesia posted its biggest trade surplus for two years in December last year, data showed yesterday, as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy shows signs of recovery after a turbulent last year.

The Jakarta Composite Index slid 0.6 percent, heading for its first loss in four days, but the rupiah fell less than 0.1 percent against the US dollar, paring a loss of as much as 0.4 percent earlier on the better December trade data.

The surplus was a bigger-than-expected US$1.52 billion, the Indonesian statistics agency said, up from November last year’s US$776.8 million and the biggest since December 2011.

Indonesia was hit hard last year, along with other developing economies, owing to speculation that the US Federal Reserve would start to wind down its stimulus program, which had been credited with ralling emerging markets since it was unveiled in late 2012.

The speculation sparked a plunge in the Jakarta stock exchange and rupiah, which has lost more than 20 percent of its value.

Indonesian authorities scrambled to shore up the economy and the central bank hiked its key interest rate 175 basis points between June and November.

Emerging market jitters returned last month, with global shares plunging, after the Fed announced a second successive cut to its bond buying.

However, the data released yesterday showed further evidence that the Indonesian economy was recovering, economists said.

“If there was any doubt that Indonesia’s trade position is improving, there should not be now,” Credit Suisse head of Southeast Asia and India Economics Robert Prior-Wandesforde said.

Indonesia statistics agency chief Suryamin, who goes by one name, attributed the widening trade surplus to higher exports in sectors including gas and electrical appliances.

Exports reached US$16.98 billion in December, up 10.33 percent from the same month in 2012.

Imports between January and December last year fell 2.64 percent from a year earlier to US$186.63 billion.

Inflation last month was 8.22 percent year-on-year, the statistics agency said.

This was slower than 8.38 percent on-year in December, but still high as seasonal flooding across the country pushed up food prices due to high distribution costs.

Indonesia has enjoyed a prolonged boom in recent years, with the economy expanding more than six percent annually, but analysts predict growth will slip below this level for last year. The full-year growth figure for last year is to be released tomorrow.

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