September 11, 2018 / 1:56 AM / 3 months ago

Philippines' July trade deficit widens as imports surge

MANILA, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The Philippines’ trade deficit widened in July as imports posted their fastest gain in more than two years while exports barely grew, government data showed on Tuesday.

Trade deficit for July was $3.546 billion versus $3.188 billion in June. The deficit was $1.305 billion in July 2017.

Imports surged 31.6 percent in July from a year earlier, owing to large purchases of iron and steel, and transport equipment, industrial machinery and equipment, while exports posted only a negligible growth of 0.3 percent.

The central bank has projected an 11 percent growth in imports this year, driven by demand for capital and consumer goods as the government pushes ahead with its massive programme to build new airports, ports, road networks.

Exports are projected to rise 10 percent this year.

The Philippines has been posting large trade gaps since last year that have led to wide current account deficits and added pressure on the peso, which has fallen this month to its weakest in more than 12 years against the U.S. dollar.

The peso opened 0.14 percent weaker on Tuesday while the Philippine Stock Exchange index fell as much as 1 percent in early trades.

Policymakers have said higher imports reflected a continuing robust expansion of the domestic economy.

The Philippine economy remains one of the fastest growing in Asia, but the slower growth posted in the second quarter increases the challenge for a government that’s funding a multi-billion dollar infrastructure overhaul and a central bank wrestling with high inflation. (Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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