Exports accelerated to a record high last month on the back of strong demand for optoelectronic equipment, electrical engineering goods and information and telecom products, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the ministry said exports last month reached US$22.69 billion, increasing 14.4 percent year-on-year to a record high for the fifth consecutive month
Meanwhile, imports rose 9.8 percent year-on-year to US$19.2 billion last month from a year earlier amid increased purchases of crude oil and new aircraft, the ministry reported.
Imports recorded their second-highest monthly figure, the ministry's data showed.
The resultant trade surplus was US$3.49 billion, up 48.3 percent from US$3.15 billion in the previous month, the government's data showed.
"October trade data showed that global demand continued to support exports, especially for petrochemicals and tech products," Citigroup economists Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂) and Renee Chen (陳瑩若) said in a note to investors yesterday.
But the two economists were less optimistic about export prospects in the months ahead.
"As the global economic outlook is still uncertain, we are cautious about the export outlook and expect it to slow in the remaining two months of the year," they said.
The ministry's data showed that cumulative exports rose 8.9 percent year-on-year to US$201.41 billion in the first 10 months of the year, while imports increased 6.9 percent to US$180.49 billion during the same period. That translated into a trade surplus of US$20.91 billions, up 31 percent from the same period last year.
Despite the buildup in the trade surplus over the the past few months, higher import costs for raw materials have actually squeezed domestic demand for capital goods and consumer goods, Cheng and Chen said in the note.
Capital equipment imports, for example, accounted for 14.6 percent of total imports last month, which was lower than a share of 15.9 percent a year earlier, the ministry's data showed.
Consumer goods imports also saw a declining share last month to 7.3 percent from 7.7 percent a year ago, it showed.
In contrast, imports of agricultural and industrial raw materials made up 78.1 percent of total imports last month, up from a share of 76.4 percent the year before.
The Citigroup economists said a rising trade surplus also indicates upside potential for the NT dollar.
"The pressure for local currency appreciation still comes from rising domestic inflation concern and the central bank's efforts to contain it," they wrote.
The NT dollar yesterday traded NT$0.025 higher to close at NT$32.375 against the US dollar on the Taipei Forex Inc.
On Monday, the government's statistics bureau reported that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 5.34 percent year-on-year last month, the highest rise since October 1994.