The nation's exports grew last month at the slowest pace in two years as high oil costs dampened overseas demand for laptop computers, flat-panel displays and cellphones.
Exports rose 4 percent year-on-year last month to a record high of US$16.32 billion after an increase of 11.2 percent to US$15.64 billion in April, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Allowing for distortions caused by changes in the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, that would be the smallest gain since May 2003.
Imports last month rose 11.3 percent year-on-year to US$16.14 billion compared with an 18.8 percent gain to US$15.56 billion in April, leaving a trade surplus of US$181.7 million last month, up from US$83.9 million in April, according to the ministry.
Shipments of computer chips and other electronic parts fell 2.3 percent to US$3.5 billion last month, and exports of information technology and telecommunications products fell 24 percent to US$922 million, the ministry said.
Exports will probably grow less than 10 percent in the second half of this year, said Hsu Kuo-chung (
"I'm not sure if exports of communication products will improve in the second half," Hsu said. "A lot of companies have moved their production lines overseas."
Weak overseas demand is hurting sales of companies, and last month this prompted the government to cut its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.63 percent from 4.21 percent.
The International Monetary Fund said on April 13 that global economic growth would slow to 4.3 percent this year from 5.1 percent last year, partly because of higher oil costs.
Shipments to China, the nation's biggest export market, fell last month for the first time since December 2001, while sales to the US, Europe and Japan all grew at a slower pace.
Shipments to China and Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent to US$5.9 billion last month, while sales to the US were up 1.1 percent to US$2.6 billion.
Exports to Europe rose 1.2 percent to US$2.1 billion and those to Japan gained 2.6 percent to US$1.2 billion.