Malaysia's economy expanded at a faster pace in the final quarter of 2018, ending a year of weakening momentum as resilient exports helped to shore up growth amid a slowdown in global demand from the US-China trade war.
South-east Asia's third-largest economy expanded 4.7 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, up from 4.4 per cent in the third quarter. The outcome was in line with the median estimate of a Reuters poll but was better than some economists had expected.
Malaysia’s central bank said it expects the economy to remain on a steady growth path, supported by steady domestic demand and improving external appetite for Malaysia's exports.
Private consumption remained a key driver of the economy but grew at a slightly slower pace of 8.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with 9 per cent in July-September.
Full-year 2018 growth came in at 4.7 per cent, just below the government's forecast of 4.8 per cent but far short of the 5.9 per cent pace a year earlier. The government is expecting the growth for 2019 to be 4.9 per cent.
Malaysia's trade surplus rose an annual 6.9 per cent in the fourth quarter to RM34.6 billion (S$11.5 billion). In the third quarter, the surplus fell 4.1 per cent from a year ago. Electronics and electrical products boosted exports, helped by shipments ahead of higher anticipated US-China trade tariffs, while output from the mining sector also improved.
The ringgit depreciated 1.8 per cent on the dollar last year, in line with most regional currencies, but has since rebounded 1.5 per cent since the start of the year. Inflation is expected to be higher on average this year after benign cost pressures in 2018. Full-year 2018 inflation was 1 per cent.