MANILA —The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said merchandise imports contracted in October 2013 in anticipation of sluggish business activity after the holiday season.

This statement came after the National Statistics Office reported that merchandise imports declined by 8.6 percent to $4.8 billion in October 2013, from $5.3 billion a year ago.

“This outturn may be related to the rapid growth of imports (over 7%) in the previous three months. It may also be reflective of the less optimistic outlook of businesses on their own operations as they anticipate a lower volume of business activity in the first quarter of 2014,” Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

Still, he noted that based on the fourth quarter (Q4) Business Expectations Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the overall level of confidence of businesses in the economy for next year remains buoyant.

The Cabinet official explained that the uptick in confidence index to 52.3 percent from 42.8 percent in the third quarter of 2013 indicates optimism from the business sector.

“Notwithstanding the overall decline in imports in October 2013, total inward shipments from our top trading partners were mostly goods that are essential for growth,” Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General, highlighted.

He stressed that the goods imported during the period are capital goods. These include power generating and specialized machines, aircraft ships and boats, and telecommunications and electrical machinery, as well as materials and accessories for the manufacture of electrical equipment.

The decline in merchandise imports in October 2013 was accounted for by lower overseas purchases of mineral fuels and lubricants and raw materials and intermediate goods.

The combined share of these two product categories is 53.6 percent of total imports and in effect, outweighed the positive growth in the value of imported capital and consumer goods.

For the first ten months of 2013, the total value of merchandise imports contracted marginally by 0.8 percent to $51.2 billion.

Given the faster growth in merchandise exports, total trade-in-goods deficit decreased by $1.0 billion to $6.1 billion in January to October 2013 versus the same period last year.

China remains our top source of inward shipments in October with a 13 percent share, followed by the USA and Japan at 9.6 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

Major trade-oriented economies in the East and Southeast Asian region showed mixed import growth performances in October 2013.

Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, Korea, Singapore and Japan recorded positive growth rates in October, while Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia experienced declines in imports during the period.

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