Malaysia's economy grew at a slightly faster than expected 5.6 percent in the first quarter, as investment in the private sector picked up pace, its central bank said on Friday.
Though it beat forecast Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the January-March quarter slowed from 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, partly due to weak exports at the start of the year. The median forecast from a Reuters' poll had reckoned on 5.5 percent growth in the first quarter.
Growth would have been slower but for a surge in industrial activity and robust private consumption in March prior to the implementation of a new consumption tax, but Bank Negara Malaysia's governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz stressed the positives, and analysts also said the data showed the economy's resilience.
"This is a strong growth of investment in the economy," Zeti told a news conference.
Zeti said private consumption is expected to moderate as households adjust to the new goods and services tax, but overall consumption will be supported by the rise in income and employment.
"That's still a strong growth in consumption, we are talking about some moderation, but we see the moderation as being temporary," she said.
Malaysia's current account surplus widened to 10 billion ringgit ($2.81 billion) in the first quarter from 5.7 billion ringgit in the fourth quarter of 2014, the central bank said.
"Growth still looks resilient even though external demand was weak. This may reverse if global oil prices continue to climb. The result implies little pressure for the central bank to ease for now," said Jeff Ng, economist at Standard Chartered.
"Also the current account surplus should stabilize the currency."
In March, industrial production rose 6.9 percent from a year ago, beating market expectations, boosted by the mining and manufacturing sectors.
Although export shipments were weaker in the first two months of 2015, mainly hurt by softer demand from China and lower shipments of commodities, it surged in March, raising expectations that Malaysia may be on a recovery path.