Malaysia exports rebound, rise 3.5 pct in January

Malaysia said Monday its export activity rebounded 3.5 percent in January from a dip a month earlier as demand from neighbours and the giant Chinese market picked up.

January exports were valued at 56.99 billion ringgit ($18.37 billion), up 3.5 percent year-on-year, the trade ministry said in a statement. Imports rose 16 percent to 53.72 billion ringgit.

Shipments to China rose 8.6 percent year-on-year, driven by demand for Malaysian crude oil, rubber, and electronic and chemical products, the ministry said.

Malaysia, Southeast Asia's third-largest economy, relies heavily on exports of its abundant natural resources but also some manufactured goods.

Exports to other Southeast Asian countries -- especially electronics and refined petroleum products -- jumped 29.3 percent and accounted for a third of Malaysia's total shipments abroad.

Exports to the United States rose 8.6 percent, while those to Japan fell 14.1 percent.

Shipments had unexpectedly slipped 5.8 percent in December on weaker demand in China and the US. Full-year exports for 2012 grew only 0.6 percent compared to the previous year.

Analysts have forecast exports to rebound this year as the global economy recovers from the debt crisis Europe, stagnant US growth, and a growth slowdown in China.

Malaysia's economy grew a faster-than-expected 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter, its best showing in more than two years, and expanded 5.6 percent for full-year 2012.

The expansion, which exceeded an earlier government forecast of 5.0 percent, has been credited largely to steady domestic demand.

The government has been pumping money into investment drives and cash handouts to boost the economy ahead of elections due by June.