Indonesia posted its third straight monthly trade surplus in December and its biggest in two years, data showed Monday, in a welcome sign for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy amid turbulence in other emerging markets.
The trade surplus in December totaled $1.52 billion, the largest since December 2011, the country’s statistics bureau said. That followed a revised $790 million surplus in November.
Indonesia’s rupiah — one of the so-called Fragile Five emerging market currencies — slid more than 20 percent last year, stricken by investor unease about the country’s high current account deficit and the effect of a reduction in the United States monetary stimulus.
But the rupiah has held largely steady so far in 2014, helped in part by the Indonesian central bank, which has raised interest rates aggressively since June. The rupiah pared earlier losses and traded at 12,215 per dollar after the data on Monday.
“Definitely, this is positive for sentiment in the markets, and it will be interesting how much of an impact this latest number will have on the current account data for” the fourth quarter in 2013, said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS Bank in Singapore. “We have forecasted the current account deficit at 3.4 percent of G.D.P. in 2013, but now see some chance of it coming in slightly narrower than our expectations.”
Bank Indonesia, the central bank, estimated that the overall 2013 current account deficit would be below 3 percent of gross domestic product, because of improving demand in the fourth quarter.
Exports in December surged 10.33 percent from a year earlier, versus analysts’ expectations for a 1.8 percent rise, while imports fell 0.79 percent, against a forecast 3.6 percent drop. For 2013, exports fell 3.92 percent and imports dropped 2.64 percent.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s consumer price index rose 8.22 percent in January from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said Monday, after torrential rain and natural disasters disrupted activity. That marked the seventh straight month that annual inflation has stayed above 8 percent.
Since June the central bank has raised its benchmark rate by a total of 1.75 percentage points to maintain investor confidence.