Indonesia's September trade balance swings to positive

  • Indonesia reported a trade surplus of $230 million for September, compared with a $500 million deficit expected in a Reuters poll.
  • The country revised its trade deficit in August to $944 million.

Vendors selling Indonesian traditional fabric known as "batik", a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, from Solo during a craft exhibition in Jakarta on Sept. 12, 2018.
Adek Berry | AFP | Getty Images
Vendors selling Indonesian traditional fabric known as "batik", a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, from Solo during a craft exhibition in Jakarta on Sept. 12, 2018.

Indonesia's trade balance unexpectedly swung back to surplus in September as imports and exports grew much slower than expected, data released by the statistics bureau showed on Monday.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, reported a trade surplus of $230 million for September, compared with a $500 million deficit expected in a Reuters poll.

The country revised its trade deficit in August to $944 million.

September imports were worth $14.60 billion, up 14.18 percent from a year earlier. That compared with expectation of a 24.76 percent increase in the poll.

Exports were worth $14.83 billion in September, up 1.70 percent from a year earlier, compared with the poll forecast of a 7.58 percent increase.

Exports were supported by coal and crude palm oil. Oil and gas exports, on the other hand, dropped nearly 17 percent annually in September, said Yunita Rusanti, a senior official at the statistics bureau.

Declining oil and gas exports despite high oil prices should be treated as a warning for policymakers, said Satria Sambijantoro, an economist at Bahana Securities.

Some measures, including higher tariffs, have been imposed to curb unnecessary imports of consumer goods to contain the trade gap and support the rupiah that has lost around 11 percent of its value to the dollar so far this year.

The statistics bureau sees only a small impact from the higher tariffs so far.

The rupiah traded at 15,220 per dollar after the announcement, relatively stable compared with Friday's closing at 15,200.