Trade gap shrinks to $1.73B in November

The country’s trade deficit last November slid to its smallest level in five months as imports surpassed exports, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed on Friday.

According to the statistics agency, inbound shipments slipped by 18.9 percent year-on-year to $7.52 billion and outbound ones climbed by 3 percent to $5.79 billion.

This resulted in the trade balance hitting a deficit of $1.73 billion in the 11th month, lower than $3.65 billion a year ago and $1.78 billion last October. It is the lowest since the $1.37 billion last June.

Year-to-date, the trade gap contracted by 47.8 percent to $19.66 billion from $37.70 billion in the first 11 months of 2019.

In a statement, the PSA said “the annual decrement of imported goods in November 2020 was due to the decrease in all top 10 major import commodities.”

Of these, the decreases were fastest in transport equipment (-42.7 percent), industrial machinery and equipment (-32.6 percent); and mineral fuels, lubricants, and related materials (-30.2 percent).

The cumulative import value in January to November reached $77.63 billion, down 24.5 percent from $102.88 billion in the same period of 2019.

Most of the imported goods were electronic products, with an import value of $2.52 billion, or a 33.4-percent share to total imports in the 11th month. Mineral fuels, lubricants, and related materials were valued at $598.05 million (8 percent); and transport equipment, $568.80 million (7.6 percent).

On the value of exports, of the top 10 major commodity groups, seven saw annual increases, led by cathodes and sections of cathodes of refined copper (83.2 percent), gold (59.5 percent), and coconut oil (40.4 percent).

The three that posted negative annual declines are other mineral products and other manufactured goods, at -14.4 percent each; and machinery and transport equipment, -5.9 percent.

Cumulative export earnings in the 11 months ending November amounted to $57.97 billion, 11.1 percent lower than the year-ago figure.

“By commodity group, exports of electronic products continued to be the country’s top export with total earnings of $3.53 billion,” the PSA said, adding that it accounted for 60.9 percent of the total in the month.

Manufactured goods followed with $293.62 million (5.1 percent), and ignition wiring set and other wiring sets used in vehicles, aircrafts, and ships, with $208.70 million (3.6 percent).

In an outlook, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort said the trade gap could have reached $20 billion last year, “reflecting slower demand largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Further recovery of the global economy, as well as measures to further reopen the local economy, would help support the pickup in both exports and imports in the coming months, he added.

Ricafort warned, however, that “the risk of the new coronavirus strain/variant that is more contagious could lead to slower economic recovery prospects amid lockdowns and travel restrictions in some countries around the world, thereby could also lead to slower recovery in both imports and exports, going forward.”

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