Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Indonesia has swung to a surprise trade surplus in August from a record deficit the previous month, data shows, but analysts cautioned the upswing in Southeast Asia's top economy was temporary.

However, the data came on Tuesday amid a flurry of upbeat economic figures, with inflation easing and modest growth in the manufacturing sector, welcome signs of improvement after Indonesia was hit hard by concerns the US was poised to reduce its stimulus program.

Emerging markets from Brazil to Turkey have seen their stocks and currencies tumble in recent months as investors fled before the Federal Reserve's surprise announcement that it would hold off tapering its bond-buying program.

Indonesia's woes have been exacerbated by its own domestic problems, including slowing growth and large current account and trade deficits.

But after widening to a record deficit of $US2.31 billion in July, Indonesia's trade balance swung back to a surplus of $US132.4 million ($A142.36 million) in August, data showed Tuesday. Economists had expected a small deficit.

The change was driven by a big fall in imports from the previous month due to lower fuel imports in August after they surged the previous month ahead of the Muslim Eid holiday.

A fall in the value of the rupiah also helped, meaning imported goods are more expensive.

"The rupiah has depreciated rapidly so Indonesians are not importing at the same rate, or a postponing imports," said UOB Kay Hian Securities director David Chang.

Inflation, which has been stubbornly high following a June hike in fuel prices by up to 44 per cent, also eased in September to 8.40 per cent from a four-year high of 8.79 per cent the previous month, data showed.

And a closely watched index compiled by HSBC showed manufacturing activity rebounded slightly to 50.2 in September, after it fell to a 15-month low of 48.5 in August.

Anything below 50 points to contraction and anything above indicates growth.

Jakarta's stock market responded positively to the data releases, jumping 0.86 per cent in afternoon trade, while the rupiah strengthened to 11,500 to the US dollar from 11,600.

However, Chang warned the improvement in the nation's economic conditions was likely "temporary".

"Maybe in the last month or so pressures have eased, but I don't think that investors are going to think our economic problems are over," he said.


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