Wednesday, 14 April 2010

RP export recovery continues

D. A. B. Nepomuceno

PHILIPPINE MERCHANDISE exports surged 42.3% in February from a year ago to record their fourth consecutive month of growth since November 2009, as demand from key foreign markets continued to strengthen, the government reported yesterday.

The data prompted the country’s main exporter chamber and the group of semiconductor and electronics firms to consider upgrading their growth projections for the year.
Some $3.57 billion worth of goods were shipped out of the country, a hefty improvement from the $2.51 billion recorded during the same period last year, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Japan remained the largest export market for the second straight month in February, with shipments accounting for 17.6% of total exports and rising 55.4%. The US and Singapore, meanwhile, ranked second and third in terms of being the largest export destinations, while demand from other key markets also got a lift.

On a month-on-month basis, however, exports contracted slightly by 0.4%, leading one private sector economist to caution against euphoria. Industry players and government planners, however, remained upbeat.

"The February figure is reflective of global economic recovery," acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto B. Santos said in a text message.

"It (February figure) is consistent with the uptrend in global market demand," Dennis M. Arroyo, National Economic and Development Authority director for national policy and planning, said in a phone interview.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport), said the results topped industry expectations. "That is a happy surprise, I thought we’ll be seeing 30% growth only in February," he said.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis pointed out that the double-digit growth in February, which followed January’s 42.5%, "points to the fact that demand in global market is really back."

Higher projections

The weaker month-on-month numbers were not an indication that exports could still contract, he added.

Electronics, which accounted for 58.1% of total exports in February at $2.07 billion, sustained double-digit gains at 53.4%, a turnaround from the 45% contraction recorded a year ago.

Month on month, electronics rose 1.9%, though slower than January’s monthly gain of 8.1%.

"Demand for electronic products is strongerI think that the sector will have a good year this year," Arthur J. Young, Jr., chairman of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) said.

Mr. Young added that an upward revision to the industry’s current 15%-20% full-year growth forecast is likely.

The export sector’s sustained growth might also prompt Phil-export to recast its first-quarter and full-year growth projections, Mr. Ortiz-Luis said.

"For the first quarter, we are just looking at 20%-25% growth. However, stronger exports were recorded for the first two months and our forecast for the first quarter could be doubled," the industry official said.

"For the full year, I am now looking at 15%-20% growth in merchandise exports," Mr. Ortiz-Luis added, even as he clarifed that this was his personal view.

But Cid L. Terosa, an economist of the University of Asia and the Pacific, warned that global economic rebound is not yet in full swing. "The export sector needs to be cautious since the world economy has not fully recovered. Also, foreign exchange rate movements or the strengthening of the peso could upset the sustainability of recent gains in exports," he said.

The peso yesterday strengthened even further, closing at P44.675 to the US dollar from P44.740 last Monday, and averaging P44.729 from P44.746.

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