Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Analysts project stable export growth

AP , TAIPEI

The nation's exports likely expanded at a stable pace last month on continued robust global demand for electronic goods and flat-panel display products, analysts said yesterday.

Growth in imports, meanwhile, is likely to have accelerated last month, mainly because of higher crude oil and raw-material prices.

The value of the nation's outbound goods likely grew 8.9 percent year-on-year to NT$563.24 billion (US$17.8 billion) last month, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of six economists. The Ministry of Finance is scheduled to issue last month's trade data on Monday.

Analysts' estimate that exports last month grew slightly faster than in March, when outbound sales rose 7.1 percent year-on-year to US$17.68 billion, but would be well below the average growth of 11.4 percent in the first quarter and 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same periods one year earlier.

As for imports, economists expect the figures to show a 5 percent rise last month to NT$519.1 billion (US$16.4 billion) from the year-earlier period, compared with a 0.5 percent year-on-year fall in March to US$16.17 billion.

Given the forecast, the country likely had a trade surplus of NT$44.31 billion (US$1.4 billion) last month, compared with a surplus of US$1.51 billion in March.

"Taiwan's trade performance was stable in April," according to Ma Tieying, an economist at DBS Bank in Hong Kong.

"But we think export growth will moderate in the second and third quarters, rising at a single-digit pace rather than double-digit as in the first quarter and the fourth quarter. That's because global demand for electronics is expected to slow down while the US economy softens in the second half," Ma said.

Last month, exports of electronics goods, the country's largest export category, likely remained strong as global consumers continued to upgrade anything from computers to flat panel TVs, analysts said.

Michael Spencer, chief Asia economist at Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, forecast that export growth would come in well above consensus because of strong global demand for electronics.

"It appears that the global cycle will peak in the next two months and gradually slow in the second half," he said.

Other economists said the nation's exports have been dragged down by weak demand for non-technology products.

"Momentum in exports will likely remain flattish, attributable to the weak trend in non-IT [information technology] exports,'' Enoch Fung, an economist at Goldman Sachs said in a report on Thursday.

In March, outbound sales of non-technology goods, including plastic and rubber goods, textile and steel products, slowed significantly.

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