Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) on June 6 said that the country's exports amounted to 66.37 billion RM (20.65 billion USD) in April this year, an increase of 18.9 percent as compared to the same period last year.

Economists said that, the latest export data caught the market by surprise as it is double of what the economists had expected, signalling another robust phase in the second quarter.

MITI Minister Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia ’s trade has seen significant expansion, particularly the export growth trajectory, since July last year.

In April, exports to ASEAN expanded 17.5 percent, China (13.1 percent), Japan (16.5 percent), European Union (20.7 percent) and the United States (17.1 percent).

The country's imports in April grew by five per cent to 57.5 billion RM (17.9 billion USD), up 5 percent over the same month last year, and trade surplus was 8.87 billion RM (2.8 billion USD).

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Dr Chua Hak Bin described the export strength in April as broad-based as there were stronger shipments of refined petroleum products, crude petroleum, liquefied natural gas, optical and scientific equipment, and electronics.

Meanwhile, Alliance DBS Research chief economist Manokaran Mottain described the growth as a pleasant surprise, especially with the recovery in the exports of manufactured goods due to the higher demand from major trading partners such as China, the US and Japan as well as ASEAN.

He said the recovery in exports to China was largely impressive at a time when its economy was in easing growth in recent quarters.

The chief economist expressed his hope that a gradual recovery in the advanced economies, particularly the US and EU, will continue to support external trade in Malaysia .

According to MITI, Malaysia's export value in the first four months of this year reached 254.22 billion RM (around 79.16 billion USD), an increase of 12.8 percent over the corresponding period last year.-VNA