Malaysian Manufacturing Sales Rise In March

By Agence France-Presse Malaysian manufacturing sales rose 10% in March from a year earlier to 28.6 billion ringgit (US$7.5 billion) and were up 10.4% from February, official data showed May 16. For the first three months of 2003, manufacturing sales totaled 81.2 billion ringgit, an increase of 12.9% from a year earlier, the Statistics Department said. "The modest [growth] figure for March is due to companies drawing down on inventories," one analyst with a local brokerage said. Malaysian manufacturing sales rose 17.3% in February. "External demand is slowing down. For the first-half of 2003, we may just see a small growth in manufacturing sales. Any pickup will come in the second half and it will be depend on the performance of the U.S. economy," he added. Malaysia's industries are reeling from the twin blows of the war in Iraq and the outbreak of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which has depressed business throughout the region. The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) has cut its 2003 economic growth forecast for Malaysia following the outbreak of SARS to 3.7% from an earlier projection of 5.7%. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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