Exports hit a record high last month for the second straight month thanks to robust global demand, despite a decelerating growth pace that could continue next month, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday.
Overseas sales increased 10.5 percent from a year earlier to US$18.93 billion last month, buoyed by electronics exports to Hong Kong, China, South Korea, ASEAN members and the US. The previous record export figure was registered in April with US$18.8 billion.
Machinery and high-tech exports grew by 12.6 percent to US$9.1 billion, the data showed.
Imports jumped by 12.3 percent to a new high of US$18.21 billion due to the soaring costs of crude oil imports from the Middle East and African countries such as Chad and Angola.
This led the trade surplus to shrink to US$720 million last month, down by US$200 million from a year ago, the ministry said.
Both the volume and cost of crude oil imports reached a record high last month -- 4.03 million barrels for a total of US$2.61 billion, or US$64.7 per barrel -- compared to 3.3 million barrels worth US$1.97 billion, or US$59.8 per barrel, in April, the ministry said.
The short-term outlook does not seem as bright as export growth, which has slowed down from a 15 percent rise in April, and could continue to weaken next month.
"Overseas sales might not sustain double-digit growth next month, since it is the electronics industry's low season," Lee Li-shue (
China's decision to resume a series of macro-economic measures to try to cool its property market could in turn hurt Taiwan's exports such as cement products, Lee said.
Other uncertainties include US monetary policy in the wake of 16 successive interest rate hikes since June 2004 and looming inflationary pressure worldwide, which could collectively affect the nation's overseas sales, the official said.
For the first five months of this year, exports increased by 12.2 percent year-on-year to US$87.91 billion, boosted by exports to Hong Kong-China, and the US, the nation's largest two export destinations, which rose 16.9 percent and 11.8 percent respectively.
Imports for the same period saw weaker growth of 9 percent to US$81.38 billion because of decreasing demand for equipment such as aircraft and the construction of the high speed rail, and for consumer goods because of consumer belt-tightening amid the drawn-out credit and cash-card bad debt problem, the ministry said.
This translated into a trade surplus of US$6.53 billion for the five months, up 77.4 percent from the same period a year earlier, it said.