KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5% in the third quarter, faster than the 4.7% expansion most economists had predicted, as the economy benefited from strong domestic demand and a rebound in exports.
Bank Negara yesterday also revised the country's second-quarter growth to 4.4% from 4.3% previously. The central bank is maintaining its full-year growth forecast at 4.5% to 5%.
The GDP is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country's economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific timeframe.
"Domestic demand remained the key driver of growth, expanding by 8.3%, while exports turned around to grow by 1.7%," Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said at a press conference.
She noted that emerging signs of a recovery in the major advanced economies are expected to support overall growth.
"For the Malaysian economy, the gradual recovery in the external sector would support growth. Domestic demand from the private sector would remain supportive of economic activity amid the continued consolidation of the public sector," she said. "Going forward, economic growth is expected to be sustained although risks continue to remain."
She said the global economic recovery was under way, but with downside risks from uncertainties over the fiscal and monetary adjustments in several of the major advanced economies.
"The other main contributor to GDP is investment, which is even more important as investment activity leads to capacity expansion, and allows our economy to experience future growth," she said.
Malaysia's current account surplus for the third quarter jumped to RM9.8bil, equivalent to 4.1% of the gross national income (GNI), from RM1.5bil in the second quarter.
This was mainly due to a higher surplus in the goods account. The GNI comprises the GDP together with income received from other countries less similar payments made to other countries.
She said net exports turned around and posted a positive growth of 1.6% after seven consecutive quarters of declines, driven by external demand, high commodity prices and strong investment activities.
The ringgit also experienced volatility in the third quarter, as expectations for a scale back in the US Federal Reserve's asset purchase programme prompted a reversal of capital flows from most regional financial markets.
"The volatility was to a lesser extent than what we had seen previously at the height of the global financial crisis. The movement is similar to other currencies," Zeti said.
She said the foreign exchange market was significantly larger and liberalised now and market players were, therefore, doing the intervention. However, she said Bank Negara would intervene if there were any severe volatility or market disorder.
"The region is in a better position to cope with more volatile conditions, as the financial markets are now larger, better developed and more mature.
"We believe there will not be an exodus out of this region, as our region remains an important growth centre in the global economy and, therefore, we will still be the destination for investment activities," Zeti said.
The consumer price index was also higher at 2.2% due to higher inflation in the transport and food and non-alcoholic beverages categories.
Speaking on the subsidy rationalisation plans the Government has embarked on, she said the opportunity still existed for these price adjustments to be made gradually.
"We are on a steady growth path, and we have not experienced strong demand that would result in strong inflationary pressures. Therefore, it is a good time to make such adjustments," Zeti said.