Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 11 News List

Commercial sales climb to highest level in 11 months

TOP OF THE PILE The latest data show that among domestic commercial sectors, sales in the retail sector registered the biggest annual growth — 4.58 percent

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Domestic commercial sales reached their highest level in 11 months last month as the economy emerges from its severe slump, despite a mixed performance across sectors, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a report on Tuesday.

Domestic trade — including the retail, wholesale and restaurant sectors — totaled NT$1.087 trillion (US$34 billion) last month, down 2.12 percent from a year earlier but up 0.3 percent from the previous month, the report released on the ministry’s Web site said.

Last month’s sales marked the highest since September last year, when domestic trade was NT$1.09 trillion, the ministry’s data showed.

The latest data showed that, among domestic commercial sectors, sales in the retail sector registered the biggest annual increase of 4.58 percent to NT$277 billion.

Retail sales last month were mainly boosted by transportation related items, the ministry said. Excluding these transportation items, led by an increase of 57.41 percent in sales of automobiles, motorbikes and auto parts/accessories, retail sales were up only 0.27 percent year-on-year.

Companies in the wholesale sector, meanwhile, saw sales decline 4.32 percent year-on-year to NT$782.1 billion last month, and those in the restaurant sector fell 1.42 percent to NT$27.5 billion, the report said.

In the first eight months of the year, total domestic trade amounted to NT$8.12 trillion, down 8.82 percent from the same period last year, the report showed.

Tine Olsen, a Sydney-based economist at Moody’s Economy.com, said the recovery in domestic consumption was not as strong as expected, because the monthly increase of 0.3 percent in domestic trade last month was slower than a rise of 3.07 percent in the previous month.

Her concern was backed by the softened growth in both wholesale trade and retail sales last month. Based on the ministry’s report, wholesale trade expanded 0.35 percent month-on-month last month after advancing 2.61 percent in July, while retail sales saw almost no monthly growth last month after jumping 4.66 percent in the previous month.

“Domestic trade in Taiwan is not projected to show solid improvements until the labor market stabilizes further, and the global recovery gives the export-oriented industries more solid ground under their feet,” Olsen wrote in an e-mailed statement.

On Tuesday, the government’s statistics bureau also reported the unemployment rate surged to a record 6.13 percent last month.

Retail sales showed a second month of annual growth registering 4.58 percent last month after advancing 1.28 percent in July, hinting that the rising unemployment rate seemed not to make a marked impact on consumer spending.

“If it is a pattern — that sales from supermarkets are growing while sales from department stores are contracting, Taiwanese consumers may be changing their spending patterns to be more frugal,” Olsen wrote in the statement.

According to the ministry’s report, supermarkets saw sales grow 6.29 percent year-on-year to NT$12.3 billion last month, after rising 0.56 percent to NT$10.7 billion in July.

Sales at department stores, meanwhile, dropped 0.71 percent year-on-year to NT$17.2 billion, after rising 3.43 percent to NT$17.1 billion in July, the data showed.

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