Malaysia's exports unexpectedly declined in January, the first fall in eight months, official data showed on Friday.

The country's exports fell 2.8 percent year-on-year, against analysts' prediction of a 2.5 percent growth, hinting at the continued weakness of the exports sector in a softening global economy.

The poor shipment numbers dampened hopes of buoyant economic growth after recent data showed the economy grew faster than anticipated in the last quarter.

Analysts say consistently low oil prices and a slowing Chinese economy hit the country's exports.

On a month-on-month basis, exports fell RM6.4bil (-9.4%) from RM68.3bil, the Statistics Department said.

"In seasonally adjusted terms, exports decreased 7.4%," the statement said.

Exports to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong declined. The decline was caused by a drop in prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude petroleum though there was an increase in electrical and electronic (E&E) products and palm oil and palm-based products, the department said.

On Tuesday state-owned oil giant Petronas said it was laying off people and cutting costs to stay afloat in a bearish oil market.