By Khanh Vu
HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s economic growth slowed to 3.32% in the first quarter, against a 5.92% year-on-year expansion in the fourth quarter of 2022, government data showed on Wednesday, as exports of smartphones and electronics fell sharply.
The Southeast Asian country, a regional manufacturing hub, reported an 11.9% fall in overall exports in the January-March period from a year earlier due to weakening global demand.
“The global economy continued to witness complicated developments and uncertainties,” the General Statistics Office (GSO) said in a report, citing high inflation and weakening demand in Vietnam’s major trade partners
Shipments of smartphones, the country’s largest export earner, fell 15% to $13 billion in the first quarter from a year ago, while electronics shipments fell 10.9%, the GSO said.
“Vietnam is among the most open economies in the world and weak external demand is taking a toll on the economy,” Capital Economics said in a note, adding that an over-leveraged property sector has been hit hard by a tightening of lending conditions.
Industrial production in the first quarter fell 2.3% from a year earlier, while retail sales of goods and services rose 13.9%, the GSO said.
Consumer prices in March fell 0.23% from February, the GSO said. Average consumer prices in the first quarter rose 4.18% from a year earlier.
Vietnam is targeting 6.5% growth of gross domestic product this year, below a decade-high expansion of 8.02% last year.
The country’s central bank earlier this month cut several policy rates to increase liquidity and support economic growth, in a surprise move that set it apart from regional peers amid the global financial turmoil.
Vietnam’s benchmark stock index has lost 29% over the past year, according to Refinitiv data.
“We expect economic activity to remain weak this year given the challenging external demand backdrop and the lagged impact of monetary tightening,” Capital Economics said, noting the data added downward risks to its 5% GDP forecast this year, while forecasting the central bank would cut its refinancing rate by 50 basis points this year.
Separately, Oxford Economics said the weaker-than-expected GDP growth increased the risk of more monetary loosening.
“While we don’t expect any further cuts, today’s data shifts the risks further towards more loosening,” Oxford Economics said.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Ed Davies)