Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian exports probably bounced back in March, after dropping slightly in February, helped by stronger oil and gas prices, economists said.
Exports stood at $10.53 billion in February, down 5 percent from the all-time high of $11.09 billion hit in January, but were up 28.5 percent from a year before.
Eight out of 10 economists polled by Thomson Financial are expecting exports in March to come in between $10.66 billion and $11.62 billion. Two economists expect lower exports in the month of between $10.36 billion to $10.48 billion compared to February.
"External demand especially from the United States remained strong in March," said Damhuri Nasution, an economist with Danareksa Research Institute.
He said the slowdown in external demand was not as fast as people may have feared.
Nasution also said the contraction in February was attributable to shortened working days.
Alexander Eric Sugandi, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said stronger oil and gas prices in March also underpinned exports.
But Danamon economist Anton Gunawan disagreed.
He said exports may have contracted slightly from February because external demand eased further.
"Oil prices increased slightly (by 1.3 percent month-on-month) but prices of key export commodities such as crude palm oil (CPO), rubber and coal declined during the month," he said.
On an annual basis exports probably grew 15.4 percent in March to $10.46 billion, he said.
The Central Bureau of Statistics will release the trade data on Friday.
The 10 economists said they are expecting imports of between $7.82 billion and $8.64 billion in March compared to $7.82 billion in February.
The estimates exclude imports to bonded industrial zones. Including imports to bonded zones, two economists are projecting total imports to reach $9.6 billion to $9.7 billion in March.
Starting January this year, the statistics bureau has also been releasing data on imports to bonded industrial zones, where imported goods are processed for re-export.
"We did not include them before because the customs and excise office did not continuously provide us with sufficient data. Now data flow is more complete," Ali Rosidi, a deputy chairman of the Central Bureau of Statistics, told Thomson Financial.
Total imports including those to bonded zones reached $9.63 billion in February.
"We think non-oil imports probably grew slightly faster versus February amid signs that domestic demand is still expanding despite rising inflation in the beginning of the year," said Danamon's Gunawan.
On an annual basis, he said imports probably grew close to 44 percent in March or 70.4 percent if imports to the special economic zones are included.
Nine of the 10 economist said they are expecting a March trade surplus of from $2.33 billion to $3.2 billion, excluding imports to bonded zones, against a trade surplus of $2.71 billion in February.
If imports to bonded zones are factored in, three economists are projecting a March trade surplus of from $830 million to $1.46 billion, against $905 million in February. (*)