Indonesia posts surprise trade surplus in February as imports slump

[JAKARTA] Indonesia posted a surprise trade surplus for the first time in five months in February as imports unexpectedly fell sharply, data from the statistics bureau showed on Friday.

South-east Asia’s largest economy had a surplus of US$329.5 million in February, compared with a Reuters poll prediction of a US$700 million gap.

Exports slumped 11.33 per cent on year to US$12.53 billion in February as shipments of oil and gas and mining products fell, the data showed, versus a 4.50 per cent contraction expected in the poll.

February imports plunged 13.98 per cent from a year earlier, amounting to US$12.20 billion, with overseas purchases of everything from consumption to capital goods declining. The poll had expected a marginal 0.30 per cent increase.

The pace of contraction in both exports and imports was the sharpest since June 2017, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Jakarta has been struggling to reduce its trade deficit, which hit a record high of US$8.5 billion last year. The authorities have raised import tariffs and relaxed export rules to try to narrow the gap.