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MANILA  (Mabuhay) — Philippine imports swung back to a decline in May after posting a slight gain a month earlier, reflecting a bleak state of global trade.

In a statement, the National Statistics Office said imports in May fell 2.4 percent year-on-year to $5.257 billion from $5.385 billion.

In April, imports registered a revised 7.4 percent annual growth after registering declines in the first three months of the year.

Total imports for the first five months of 2013 amounted to $24.755 billion, down 3.6 percent a year earlier.

The trade deficit registered at $3.66 billion after deducting the five-month imports tally from the $21.095 billion export bill as of May.

Imports of electronic products, the top trade merchandise item for the Philippines, decreased by 10.6 percent in May to $1.275 billion.

The latest import data “might forebode a sustained decline in exports in line with weakening of global trade,” Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. research head Ildemarc Bautista told GMA News Online.

“Trade has been erratic. But demand drivers are still intact and can support growth for the year,” he said.

Bautista said “weak global demand is certainly bad news for the trade sector. But on a macroeconomic perspective, the trade sector’s drag is only a small portion.”

The government expects imports to grow by 12 percent and exports by 10 percent this year. It also targets a 6 to 7 percent economic expansion this year from 6.8 percent in 2012.

Beating market expectations, the economy grew by 7.8 percent in the first quarter on strong public and private spending.  (MNS)