JAKARTA–Indonesia said Tuesday its trade balance swung back to surplus in May and reported a flurry of other positive data, a boost for Southeast Asia’s top economy after a recent slowdown. The surplus was slightly higher than expected at US$70 million, according to the statistics agency, after a deficit of almost US$2 billion in April as exports were hit by a controversial mineral ore export ban. Inflation slowed further to 6.70 percent year-on-year in June after spiking last year following a rise in fuel prices, the agency said, and a manufacturing activity survey hit a new record high.
Some good news will be a relief for policymakers after GDP growth in the first quarter slipped to an annualized 5.21 percent, its slowest pace since late 2009, due in large part to the ban on shipment of some unprocessed mineral ores. The trade balance in particular is closely watched by investors, and economists said the surplus would be welcome at a time of high uncertainty before an increasingly tight presidential election next week. “While US$70 million is not much of a surplus to write home about, the fact that exports managed to outdo imports this time round nonetheless comes at a very fortunate time,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist at Singapore’s OCBC Bank.