Export orders improved last month from the previous month, boosted by rush orders from China, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
Export orders totaled US$23.94 billion last month, up 18.99 percent from the previous month but down 24.29 percent year-on-year. In the first three months of the year, orders dropped 29.69 percent to US$61.73 billion from last year, the ministry’s latest data showed.
“We saw the steepest decline in January this year, then in February export orders started to pick up because of rush orders from China. And now in March, we are seeing more stability,” Statistics Department Director Huang Ji-shih (黃吉實) said.
The outlook for export orders is mixed, with expectations for shipments this month split evenly among the nation’s leading companies, Huang said.
Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), head economist at Citigroup Taiwan Inc, was less optimistic than Huang about the overall economic outlook.
“The figures for March’s export orders do look better than February’s, but remember, we’re coming from a very steep drop, so there is still plenty of room for increase before we can use the term recovery,” Cheng said.
“What matters now is the speed with which the data for export orders improves, and so far it has exceeded Citi’s previous estimates. We are waiting for next week’s leading indicators; if all of them are positive then we can reasonably expect to have a pretty good second quarter,” he said.
Citi predicted contractions of 8.2 percent and 6 percent for first and second-quarter GDP growth, respectively.
Cheng indicated there was a possibility of raising estimates for second-quarter GDP next week.
The nation’s two largest export destinations traded places last month, with China (including Hong Kong) leading the US for the first time since October.
Chinese orders totaled US$6.14 billion, compared with US$5.61 billion in orders from the US.
However, orders from China and the US fell 29.38 percent and 23.43 percent respectively from a year earlier.
At the same time, they climbed 27.89 percent and 14.60 percent respectively month-on-month, ministry statistics showed.
Orders from Europe and Japan last month saw increases of 13.79 percent and 18.22 percent from February to US$4.50 billion and US$2.06 billion respectively.
Among major export categories, orders for digital products fell 16.6 percent year-on-year to US$5.95 billion, telecoms products decreased 18.56 percent to US$5.84 billion and precision instruments dropped 37.68 percent to US$1.73 billion.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that industrial output had fared better last month, increasing 20.25 from the previous month.
But output still declined 26.03 percent year-on-year, it said.
The ministry revised February’s industrial output data to a decline of 27.23 percent year-on-year.
“As export orders pick up not just from China but from the US and Australia, industrial output will follow suit,” Cheng said.
Global economic conditions would likely be back on track sometime in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year, he said.