The nation’s current-account surplus widened to US$10.75 billion in the first quarter of the year on strong momentum in exports and imports, further driving up the overall balance of payments which registered a surplus of US$4.59 billion in the first three months, the central bank said yesterday.
The balance of payments — including the current account, financial account and capital account — summarizes a nation’s economic transactions with the rest of the world during a period of time.
“The expansion of the current-account surplus further brought up the overall balance of payments in the first quarter, indicating an increase in the bank’s reserve assets,” Chen E-dawn (陳一端), deputy chief of the central bank’s economic research department, told a media briefing.
The US$10.75 billion current-account surplus in the first three months was higher than a revised US$9.25 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, central bank data showed.
Chen attributed the increase of the current-account surplus to strong exports and imports, with both hitting record quarterly highs.
First-quarter exports totaled US$73.83 billion, up 19.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports rose 22.5 percent to stand at US$69.26 billion, Ministry of Finance data showed.
An increase in the services--account surplus also helped drive up the current-account surplus, Chen said.
The services account recorded a surplus of US$1.11 billion, representing an increase of US$1.1 billion from a year ago, mainly because of increases in net proceeds from merchanting and travel receipts, central bank data showed.
The financial account posted a net outflow of US$2.67 billion in the first quarter, with direct -investment hitting a record-high net outflow of US$4.56 billion and portfolio investments showing a US$12.02 billion net outflow, the bank said
“The rising net outflow of non-residents’ direct investment was one of the main factors for the outflow from the financial account in the first three months,” Chen said.
Non-residents’ direct investment posted a net outflow of US$2.3 billion, a record-high, as foreign enterprises, mostly in services industries, transferred their equity holdings to local enterprises, the bank said.
This included the acquisition of Kbro Co (凱擘), the nation’s largest cable TV operator, by Da-fu Media (大富媒體), a company owned by Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) and his brother Richard Tsai (蔡明興), members of one of the nation’s richest families.
The outflow on the financial account in the first quarter also came from lower non-residents’ portfolio investment, which registered a net outflow of US$3.43 billion, the highest since the fourth quarter of 2008, data showed.
“Foreign investors were less enthusiastic about the Taiwanese stock market during February and March, cutting their investment,” Chen said.