MANILA— Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods moderated the decrease in merchandise imports in March 2013, according to the National Economic and Development Authority. 

“Improved consumer and business confidence lifted overseas purchases of raw materials and intermediate goods, consumer goods, and capital goods in March,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan. 

Merchandise imports continued to contract in March 2013 at $4.9 billion, lower by 8.4 percent from $5.4 billon in March 2012. 

Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods slightly rose to $1.90 billion in March 2013 as a result of higher payments for both unprocessed (7.9%) and semi-processed raw inputs (0.6%). 

Payments for imported consumer goods also went up by 3.2 percent to $612.5 million in March 2013. 

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Consumer Expectations Survey show that consumers generally perceived the first quarter of 2013 as a favorable time to buy durable items. Also, members of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. and the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. both reported annual increases in car sales. 

Likewise, import payments for capital goods increased to $1.32 billion in March 2013, supported by gains in aircraft, ships and boats (34.8%), telecommunication equipment and electric machines (2.4%), and power generating and specialized machines. 

“The moderate gains in imports of capital goods mirrored the continuing expansion plans of businesses’ in the first quarter of 2013,” added Balisacan. 

Meanwhile, the value of imported mineral fuels and lubricants was down by 18 percent to $1 billion as lower import bill for petroleum crude (-64.7%) offset the higher import payments for other mineral fuels and lubricants (38.6%) and coal and coke (68.0%). 

During the period, the price of Dubai crude fell by 13.8 percent to $105.4 per barrel following expectations of a weak global demand for the commodity. 

“With the decline of imports for the third consecutive month and the recovery of exports in March, our trade-in goods deficit narrowed to $2.3 billion from $2.6 billion in the same period last year,” he added. 

China remains the country’s top supplier of imported goods with 11.5 percent share in the total value of inward shipments in March 2013. The United States of America came next with an 11.1-percent share, followed by Taiwan (10%), Japan (9.6%), the Republic of Korea (8.5%).