MANILA - Philippine exports in November rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier, the weakest rate in three months, the statistics office said on Thursday.
Electronics and semiconductor shipments, which dominate exports, rose 13.3 percent from a year ago.
The latest data brought exports in the 11 months to November to $48.0 billion, up 7 percent from a year ago.
Euben Paracuelles, economist at Nomura in Singapore, said the November figures were "clearly disappointing" and does not bode well for 2013.
"We were looking for 14.4 percent. Looking at the breakdown, it seems like the agriculture sector was the key drag, and that offset the improvement in the electronics sector. I think going forward, the export outlook will remain relatively volatile. The bad weather in December will probably exacerbate the weakness in agriculture exports. For electronics, we know that the global economy is still on a down cycle. The base effects will become much more unfavorable in the next two to three months. Combining these two, we will probably see even weaker export growth numbers in the next quarter or so," he said.
Electronics made up 48.8 percent of November export revenues, with woodcrafts and furniture as the second-biggest export item, comprising 7.6 percent of the total. Exports to Japan, the country's top export destination in November, were up 2.5 percent from a year earlier.
Exports to the United States, the second-biggest market, dropped 8.6 percent from a year earlier. Shipments to Hong Kong, the third-biggest market, rose 58.2 percent from a year ago.
Exports to Eastern Asia -- the top export destination by economic bloc, accounting for 52.3 percent of total shipments -- rose 6.5 percent from a year earlier. Southeast Asia and the European Union were the second and third biggest economic blocs.
"November exports rose 5.5 percent year-on-year, way below bullish market and our estimates and disregarding low base effects. In nominal terms, receipts at $3.6 billion were the weakest since Dec 2011, signalling that the non-electronic manufacturers' have been unable to offset the weakness in the core export segments," said Radhiko Rao, economist at Forecast Pte Singapore.
Rao noted the sharp peso appreciation and underwhelming holiday demand may have also dampened the export performance.
"For now, we expect shipments to remain lacklustre into 2013, with overall growth still driven by the domestic-led factors. For the central bank, attention is squarely on the currency, capital inflows and potential price risks. Today's sub-consensus print is unlikely to be a catalyst for any action on the rate front," she said.
The central bank lowered its 2012 exports and imports growth forecast to 8 percent and 7 percent respectively in November, from previous estimates of 10 percent and 12 percent.
The industry group Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc expects exports of the sector will post no growth in 2012 due to sluggish demand, but recover this year and grow 5 percent to 6 percent.