(STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado - The country’s imports rose 14.3 percent to $5.04 billion in July from $4.41 a year ago on the back of increased shipments of electronic components, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said yesterday.

Largely used in electronic goods for the export market, these components made up 42.7 percent of the July import bill, the NSO said.

Electronics imports grew 12.8 percent to $2.15 billion from $1.90 billion in June, indicating strong growth in the Philippine electronics sector.

The double-digit growth in imports saw the trade deficit for the month widen to $854 million from $396 million a year earlier.

“The rise in imports in July, which was a lot faster than the previous month’s growth of 3.8 percent, indicated some advance inventory purchases ahead of the Christmas season,” said Jonathan Ravelas, economic and chief market strategist at Banco de Oro Universal Bank.

“This bodes well for the country’s exports.”

“If electronics imports are still rising, then certainly it is indicative that there is a lot of manufacturing work being done in the Philippines,” said James Lago of Westlink Global Equities Inc.

A rise in electronics imports in July could be considered as a sign that there will be increased manufacturing of electronics products in the fourth quarter of this year, he remarked.

“Our exports are driven by electronics, it accounts for the lion’s share. This (rise in imports) is a sign that exports, for the moment are still doing well,” he said.

“There will be a trickle down effects in terms of employment and construction,” Lago predicted.

The statistics office earlier reported that exports in July were up 4.5 percent from a year earlier.

For the first seven months of the year, the deficit stood at $1.63 billion, with imports up 4.1 percent at $30.355 billion and exports rising 6.3 percent to $28.725 billion.

With exports slowing in recent months, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has lowered its growth forecast for exports this year to eight percent from 11 percent. It also cut its growth projection for imports to seven percent from 10 percent.

Among the country’s top imports, payments for mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials ranked second with a 20.4-percent share, posting a growth of 44.3 percent to $1.030 billion over the previous year’s level of $713.69 million. The growth is driven by the high volume of importation of crude petroleum oils.

Industrial machinery and equipment, contributing 3.8 percent to the total bill, was the country’s third top import for the month in review with payments placed at $190.13 million from last year’s $189.60 million.

Cereals and cereal preparation’s accounting for a 3.4 percent share of the total imports, ranked fourth as payments amounted to $170.70 million or a year-on-year growth of 59.6 percent from $106.93 million in 2006. The increase was due to the rise in the importation of rice and corn. Other top imports were: transport equipment, $162.2 million; iron and steel, $121.50 million; textile yarn, fabrics and related products, $101.30 million; and organic and inorganic chemicals, $97.03 million. — AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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