Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Economists expect drop in exports

FALLING DEMAND The Ministry of Finance will release the latest custom-cleared export statistics today, but economists yesterday said that orders likely fell sharply

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the world economy remains listless, economists said yesterday that the decline in Taiwan’s exports is thought to have widened to 33 percent for last month, from 23.3 percent a month earlier, which could prompt the central bank to further lower interest rates to boost domestic demand.

Tony Phoo (符銘財), Taipei-based economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said he expected the nation’s outbound shipments to have plunged 33.8 percent last month on falling demand for electronic and communications products from major trade partners worldwide.

“Judging from export orders at home and retail figures abroad, I believe exports suffered a drastic decline in the fourth quarter of last year,” Phoo said by telephone.

The Ministry of Finance is to unveil the latest custom-cleared export statistics today. On Dec. 23, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said export orders, used to gauge real export volume one to three months later, dropped 28.51 percent year-on-year to US$22.80 billion in November.

Phoo said that the US, a major end market of Taiwanese high-tech products, posted weak Christmas sales, another indicator of flagging exports.

He said imports would likely have contracted 35 percent last month, leaving a trade surplus of US$1.73 billion.

Phoo said that yearly outbound trade would have slowed to 4.4 percent for last year from 10 percent in 2007, while imports would gain to 10.8 percent from 8.2 percent in the same period.

Despite the hike in imports, due chiefly to rising raw material costs in the first half of last year, the country would manage to post an annual trade surplus of US$14.7 billion, much lower than US$27.4 billion from the previous year, Phoo said.

Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), chief economist at Citigroup Inc Taiwan, shared the sentiment.

Cheng said overseas shipments were likely to have dropped 25 percent last month while imports likely plummeted 29.4 percent on falling demand.

“Shrinking exports to China and the United States [in November] is not an isolated incident but a trend consistent with the global recession,” Cheng said by telephone.

Government data showed shipments to China and the US dropped 38.5 percent and 14.2 percent respectively in November.

Cheng put the yearly export growth rate at 5.2 percent for last year and imports at 11 percent, leaving a modest trade surplus of US$15.5 billion.

He said the performance was weak, compared with the showing a year earlier. He said he expected the economic state to be less gloomy in the third quarter of this year.

The November exports of US$16.78 billion were the lowest in seven years and the third straight month that overseas shipments contracted, Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), head of the finance ministry’s statistics department, said on Dec. 8.

At the time, Lin said the exports would contract last month and the situation would probably continue until at least the first half of this year amid the global economic slowdown.

The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics forecast on Nov. 20 that the nation’s exports would likely decline in the first three quarters of this year.

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