Stefanno Sulaiman and Fransiska Nangoy, Jakarta – Indonesia's April trade surplus came in slightly bigger than expected, even as exports and imports plunged amid declining prices of its main commodities like palm oil, coal and nickel.
The recovery of Southeast Asia's largest economy from pandemic lows has been fuelled by a global commodity boom, but analysts warn that declining commodity prices mean its trade surplus would shrink and economic growth could slow.
Indonesia's exports in April plunged 29.4% by value on a yearly basis to $19.29 billion, according to data released by the statistics bureau on Monday, more than the 18.55% drop predicted in a Reuters poll.
The fall was the biggest since early 2009, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
Shipments of coal and palm oil, two of Indonesia's biggest export products, fell the most on a yearly basis, with their prices down around 40%, the data showed.
At $3.94 billion, the country's trade surplus topped the poll's estimate of $3.38 billion amid a sharper fall in imports.
April imports were worth $15.35 billion, down 22.32% from a year earlier, marking the sharpest drop in nearly three years. Analysts in the poll had expected a 7.85% decline.
Trimegah Securities economist Fakhrul Fulvian said the April trade data strengthened the case for the central bank to ease monetary policy.
"I expect Bank Indonesia (BI) would start making dovish comments and eventually start cutting rates in August or September this year," Fakhrul said.
BI raised interest rates by 225 basis points between August and January to fight rising inflation. The central bank's next policy meeting is scheduled next week.
Fewer working days in April due to the Eid al-Fitr holidays contributed to the fall in exports and imports, said Imam Machdi, deputy head of the statistics bureau.
The statistics bureau revised down March trade surplus to $2.83 billion.
[Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman, Gayatri Suroyo and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Martin Petty.]