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Malaysia's November trade surplus plunges on slowing exports

KUALA LUMPUR, (Reuters) - Malaysia's trade surplus fell sharply in November after hitting its highest-ever trade surplus a month earlier, as exports lagged behind imports, government data showed.

November's trade surplus stood at 7.6 billion ringgit ($1.84 billion), less
than half the 16.3 billion ringgit registered a month earlier.

Malaysia reports trade data in ringgit. Total exports in November grew marginally by 1.6 percent from a year earlier, far short of the 6.6 percent forecast by economists, on a sharp drop in demand from China and a contraction in exports to the U.S. of manufactured goods.

Total exports to China, a major trading partner, grew 3.9 percent annually in November on sustained demand for chemicals and chemical products, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas (LNG), the International Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement. It was, however, a sharp drop from the 33 percent annual growth a month earlier.

Exports to the United States contracted 3.6 percent on softer demand for manufactured goods, especially in the electrical and electronics sector.

Shipments of manufactured goods, which made up 83 percent of Malaysia's November exports, rose 2.2 percent according to the ministry's data.

Exports of mining goods rose 16.1 percent on higher prices of crude oil and LNG. Low prices for palm oil and palm oil-based products led to a 17.6 percent decline in exports of agricultural goods in November. The month also saw imports rising 5.0 percent year-on-year, a sharp drop from the 11.4 percent expansion in October, on slower expansion in local demand for intermediate goods while growth was marginal in the capital goods and consumption goods categories.

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