Exports jump raises growth hopes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 12:00am

Hong Kong last month recorded better than expected growth in total exports and imports, fuelling hopes of a strong economic rebound in the fourth quarter.

The value of exports reached $124.7 billion during the month, up 10.3 per cent from a year ago. Re-exports rose by 11.5 per cent to $109.2 billion while domestic exports increased 2.3 per cent to $15.5 billion.

Imports grew 9.9 per cent to $125.1 billion.

A spokesman for the Government Secretariat, while announcing the figures, said the export performance was due mainly to rising demand in Asia and increased import absorption in Europe.

Dao Heng Bank senior economist Daniel Chan Po-ming said the figures were higher than market expectations.

'All we can say is that the demand from our major export markets is really strong,' he said.

'However, it is still too early to tell if the increase in demand was a result of a last-minute push for the September-to-November pre-Christmas delivery hot season or a real increase in orders.

'We are saying this because we expect the economy in Europe will not have a meaningful recovery until the middle of next year. Meanwhile, growth in consumption in the United States is still checked by fears of an imminent interest rate rise in the first quarter.' Mr Chan said that in particular that domestic exports - instead of an expected decline - recorded a slight increase, the first time since December 1997.

'We still have some highly-skilled, although not necessarily hi-tech, capital-intensive automated manufacturing activities located in Hong Kong, such as production of integrated circuits. It's good to see these exports also pick up.' Mr Chan said the growth in imports during the month could be a precursor to a recovery in domestic consumption.

'The Government did not give a breakdown on the kinds of goods we imported more of in November,' he said.

'I'd expect they were consumer goods, equipment and machinery.' A recent HSBC economic report pointed out that the mainland's increased trade volume has had a strong spill-over effect on Hong Kong.

Foreign buyers' concerns about possible computer breakdowns during the millennium transition forced them to accumulate inventory, thus raising the trade flows, the report said.