Malaysia’s economy likely bounced back to growth in the final quarter of 2021, propelled by strong exports and private investments, but the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant poses a threat to the outlook, a Reuters poll found.

Growth in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy rebounded last quarter to 3.3 percent year-on-year after shrinking 4.5 percent in the July to September period, according to the median forecast of 20 economists polled from 3-8 February.

Forecasts for the change in gross domestic product (GDP), due to be released on Friday (11 February), ranged from 1.5 percent to 6.3 percent, highlighting uncertainty over the pandemic’s impact on output and activity.

“Q4 2021’s economic recovery reflected relaxation of virus containment measures as Malaysia made further progress towards economic normalisation,” noted Chua Han Teng, an economist at DBS Group Research.

“Looser virus curbs not only benefited private consumption and services activity, but also aided manufacturing activity and exports, which played catch-up in fulfilling order backlogs caused by the lockdowns in Q3 2021.”

Malaysia’s exports and industrial production rose strongly in December from a year earlier, suggesting a sharp recovery in economic activity.

The economy benefited from higher commodity prices and robust demand for semiconductors amid a global shortage of chips, which power everything from cars to remote work equipment.

However, a significant economic slowdown in China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner, posed a major challenge to the resource-rich country.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) at its Jan 20 meeting warned that risks to the outlook were tilted to the downside.

A Reuters poll on the longer-term outlook for Malaysia taken in mid-January was relatively upbeat, predicting 4.3 per cent growth this quarter – with a 0.7 percent to 6.6 percent forecast range – and 5.8 percent overall expansion in 2022.


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