Trade deficit continued to widen in December, bringing the gap to another record high as exports contract for the first time in more than a year and as imports post double-digit growth.

Exports declined by 4.9% to $4.721 billion in December, a turnaround from the previous month’s 2.7% growth and the 6.6% posted in the same month in 2016. This was the worst turnout since the 10.9% contraction in July 2016. The last time exports posted a decline was in Nov.2016 when it recorded a 4.5% contraction.

The latest merchandise export figure brought full-year receipts to $62.875 billion, up 9.5% from 2016’s $57.406 billion, surpassing the government’s 5% target for the year.

In December alone, the country’s trade deficit reached a record-high $4.017 billion as imports exceeded exports. The country’s import bill increased 17.6% to $8.738 billion in December, slower than the 20.1% seen in the previous month and 19.0% in December 2016. 2017 saw a 10.2% merchandise import growth, few points higher than the 10% official target for 2017.

Hong Kong is the Philippines’ top export market in December with a 16.7% market share at $789.61 million. On the other hand, China– with an 18.9% share – was the country’s top source of imports. — Christine Joyce S. Castaneda