The economy expanded by 5.6% in the first quarter
Domestic financial conditions remained broadly stable despite uncertainties surrounding the global economic outlook.
The economy expanded by 5.6% in the first quarter (4Q 2022: 7.1%)
The Malaysian economy further expanded in the first quarter of 2023 (5.6%; 4Q 2022: 7.1%; 1Q 2011 - 4Q 2019 average: 5.1%), driven mainly by domestic demand. Further improvement in the labour market, with strong growth in employment and continued expansion in wages, have supported private consumption spending. Meanwhile, investment activity was underpinned by capacity expansion and continued implementation of multi-year projects. Inbound tourism continued to recover, lifting services exports and partially offsetting the slower goods export growth. On the supply side, the services and manufacturing sectors continued to drive growth. On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted basis, the economy grew by 0.9% (4Q 2022: -1.7%).
Headline inflation during the quarter trended lower to 3.6% (4Q 2022: 3.9%). This was due mainly to the moderation in core inflation and lower RON97 price. The decline in core inflation (1Q 2023: 3.9%; 4Q 2022: 4.2%) was largely contributed by selected services. These include telephone and telefax service, food away from home, and personal transport repair and maintenance. Even as cost pressures, particularly global commodity prices, continued to ease, core inflation remained elevated during the quarter amid continued strength in demand. Price pressures remained pervasive. The share of Consumer Price Index (CPI) items recording monthly price increases rose to 56.0% during the quarter (4Q 2022: 51.2%). This in part reflected price adjustments by firms typically done at the beginning of the year (1Q average from 2011 - 2019: 52.2%; Overall average from 2011 - 2019: 45.6%), as well as continued price increases for some food-related items.
Exchange rate developments
Domestic financial conditions remained broadly stable despite uncertainties surrounding the global economic outlook. Financial market expectations for US monetary policy were affected by evolving concerns over the US economy. These include the pace of disinflation and sustainability of its economic momentum. By the end of the quarter, risks from banking sector stress in the US and Europe weighed further on these expectations. As a result, the US dollar broadly depreciated amid shifting sentiments surrounding these developments, reversing its appreciation gains during first half of the quarter.
Against this backdrop, the ringgit continued to exhibit two-way movements with an overall marginal appreciation of 0.1% against the US dollar during the quarter. Moving forward, Bank Negara Malaysia will continue to closely monitor the global and domestic financial conditions while ensuring orderly financial market adjustments.
Credit to the private non-financial sector expanded by 4.2% (4Q 2022: 4.7%). This was accounted mainly by slower growth in outstanding loans (1Q 2023: 4.7%; 4Q 2022: 5.7%) and outstanding corporate bonds (1Q 2023: 4.4%, 4Q 2022: 4.6%). Outstanding business loans grew by 2.4%, following slower growth in working capital loans. Nonetheless, investment-related loans remained forthcoming, especially in the SME segment. For households, outstanding loan growth expanded by 5.2%. This was supported by sustained growth in outstanding loans for the purchase of big-ticket items, with higher growth recorded particularly for car purchases.
Malaysia’s growth to remain resilient in 2023, anchored by firm domestic demand
Despite global headwinds, the Malaysian economy is projected to expand by 4.0% to 5.0% in 2023, driven by firm domestic demand. Improving employment and income as well as continued implementation of multi-year projects would support consumption and investment activity. Moreover, higher inbound tourism activity would lift high-touch services industries. Governor Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus said, “Risks to Malaysia’s growth outlook are relatively balanced. Upside risks stem mainly from domestic factors. These include stronger-than-expected tourism activity and implementation of projects including those from the re-tabled Budget 2023. Meanwhile, downside risks could emanate from lower exports due to weaker-than-expected global growth and more volatile global financial market conditions.”
Headline and core inflation to moderate over the course of 2023 although core inflation would remain elevated
Headline and core inflation are expected to moderate but would remain above historical average in 2023. The moderation reflects lower global cost factors amid easing supply chain disruptions and lower commodity prices. However, core inflation will remain at elevated levels amid firm demand conditions. Existing price controls and fuel subsidies will continue to partly contain the extent of upward inflationary pressures. The balance of risk to the inflation outlook is tilted to the upside and remains highly subject to any changes in domestic policy, financial market developments and global commodity prices.
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