By Gayatri Suroyo and Stefanno Sulaiman
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s trade surplus jumped to its largest ever at $7.56 billion in April, as exports rose to a record high while imports grew slower than expected, data from the statistics bureau showed on Tuesday.
Indonesia, a major exporter of many commodities such as thermal coal, palm oil and nickel, has reported a trade surplus every month in the past two years, enjoying an export boom and rising prices of commodities.
A Reuters poll had expected a trade surplus of $3.25 billion for April, following a $4.53 billion surplus the previous month.
April exports were worth $27.32 billion, up 47.76% on a yearly basis, outdoing the poll’s prediction of a 35.97% increase, with shipments of mining and oil and gas products driving growth.
Imports were up 21.97% on an annual basis to $19.76 billion, below the 34.97% rise expected in the poll.
Indonesia’s government stopped exports of crude palm oil and some derivative products on April 28 to try to tame soaring domestic cooking oil prices.
Statistics bureau chief Margo Yuwono said palm oil shipments were down 2.6% on a monthly basis in April to $2.99 billion, and 10.49% by volume to 1.93 million.
Margo could not confirm if the drop was related to the ban, but said, “of course … if it’s not lifted, the ban will affect our trade balance.”
The rupiah, which had weakened about 0.3% ahead of the data, remained unchanged despite the surprisingly large surplus.
The currency has been under pressure in the past week as inflation rose to its highest level since 2017 and as investors expect further U.S. monetary tightening.
Wisnu Wardana, Bank Danamon’s economist, said the sizeable surplus should help cushion the rupiah from the impact of the Fed’s moves and provide room for Indonesia’s central bank to keep interest rates unchanged in the upcoming policy meeting next week.
Josua Pardede, an economist with Bank Permata, said the surplus is expected to shrink in May due to the palm oil export ban, while noting that the country’s trade performance will continue to be affected by the lockdown in China and ongoing geopolitical tensions in Europe.
(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy, Stefanno Sulaiman; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)