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Philippines' February imports at 13-month high

[MANILA] Philippine imports in February climbed 11.2 per cent from a year earlier, the highest since January 2014, the statistics office said on Tuesday.

Electronics, which made up 34.8 per cent of the total import bill and was the biggest import in February, climbed 42.4 per cent from a year earlier, the highest since December 2014.

Mineral fuels, accounting for 12.5 per cent of total imports in February and the second biggest import item, were down 18.7 per cent from last year.

The Philippines had a trade deficit of US$1.68 billion in the first two months of the year. In 2014, it posted a trade deficit of US$2.1 billion.

The decline in oil prices would likely result in a narrower trade deficit this year, the Philippine central bank has said, leading to bigger balance of payments and current account surpluses for 2015.

Currently, the central bank has a balance of payments surplus estimate of US$1 billion for 2015 and a current account surplus forecast of US$6.8 billion.

The country had a balance of payments deficit of US$2.9 billion last year, the first full-year deficit since 2004, as foreign investors shifted funds overseas in anticipation of policy tightening by the US Federal Reserve.

Semiconductor and electronics industries in the Philippines (SEIPI) forecast that electronic exports will grow between 5-7 per cent this year, helped by a pick-up in global demand.

The Southeast Asian nation, which imports electronic parts and inputs for assembly into exports, provides about 10 per cent of the world's semiconductor manufacturing services, including mobile phone chips and microprocessors.