The nation’s exports grew at a slower-than-expected pace in the third quarter because of dwindling demand amid weak European and US economies, which could prompt the government to cut its previous whole-year forecast of 15 percent growth in exports this year, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
The nation’s exports increased 9.9 percent year-on-year to US$24.61 billion last month, the third-lowest annual growth since the global financial crisis in 2008.
On a monthly basis, exports dropped 4.6 percent, falling for the second straight month, the ministry said in its report.
That brought total exports to US$78.53 billion in the third quarter, US$2.1 billion less than the US$80.63 billion projected by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics in August, the ministry said.
“The lower-than-expected outbound shipments [exports] in the third quarter and prolonged uncertainties about the global economy may lead the government to revise down the full-year forecast for Taiwan’s export growth,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a media briefing.
The slowing US economy and the eurozone debt crisis hit the momentum of global economic expansion, Lin said, adding that these downside risks may lead Taiwan’s exports to keep slowing in the fourth quarter — the traditional hot season — cutting annual growth to about 10 percent.
Exports of mineral products rebounded 21 percent from a month earlier to US$999.4 million, as Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG, 台塑集團) naphtha cracking plants in Mai-liao (麥寮), Yunlin County, have gradually returned to operations, further driving up outbound oil shipments, the ministry said.
That makes exports to the six ASEAN emerging markets the only ones showing an expansion last month, surging US$100 million from the previous month. Sales to other key overseas markets, including the US and Europe, as well as China and Hong Kong, have all dropped from the previous month, it said.
The slowing pace of the global economy is also reflected in the nation’s imports, which totaled US$22.84 billion last month, up 10.8 percent from a year ago, but down 1.4 percent from a month earlier, the ministry’s data showed.
Imports of capital goods amounted to US$2.92 billion, the first time the figure has fallen below the US$3 billion level since February last year, the ministry’s statistics showed.
“This indicates that the slowing global economy has lowered the capacity utilization rate of local display and semiconductor manufacturers, making them more conservative about importing equipment,” Lin said.
Tony Phoo (符銘財), a Taipei-based economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said the latest export and import figures showed that overall demand ahead of the year-end festive sales season might stay weak amid the increasing risk that the recent market turmoil has had a negative impact on both overseas consumer and business confidence.
“This bodes ill for the growth outlook, as we fear producers will cut back on capital expenditure as well as hiring for next year,” Phoo said in a research note yesterday.
The nation’s trade surplus totaled US$1.78 billion, down 0.1 percent from last year, data showed.
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