The nation’s exports fell 16.8 percent year-on-year last month, marking the first annual contraction in more than two years as shipments of locally made electronics dropped on delays caused by the Lunar New Year holiday and global economic uncertainty, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Outbound shipments shrank to US$21.08 billion last month, from US$25.33 billion the previous year. On a monthly basis, exports dropped 12 percent last month, marking a third consecutive month of decline, the ministry said.
“A slowdown in the global economic recovery was the major factor behind the weakness in demand [mostly from European countries] for Taiwanese products, which dragged down exports last month,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
The smaller amount of working days because of the Lunar New Year also curtailed local exporters’ shipments, Lin said.
Before the Lunar New Year holiday, exports declined 3.2 percent from the Jan. 1 to Jan. 20 period last year, but they were up 3.3 percent from the previous month, indicating demand was gradually on the rise, Lin said.
She added that these statistics would be a better reference to the strength of the nation’s exports.
Exports of information and communications technology products and other electronic products fell 26.7 percent and 23.2 percent annually respectively, the ministry said in a report.
Electronic products made up 26 percent of overall exports, making it the country’s largest export sector.
Exports of mineral products shed 27.2 percent to US$1.07 billion last month from the previous year, posting the highest drop among the nation’s 10 main export sectors.
However, exports of transport and communications facilities rose 6.8 percent from a year earlier to US$960 million last month, marking the second-highest level in history, amid increasing global demand for Taiwanese bicycles and bulk cargo carriers, the report said.
Exports to China and Hong Kong fell 25.9 percent from a year ago to total US$7.57 billion last month, marking the biggest drop in all regions, also amid lower demand in the Lunar New Year period, the report’s data showed.
Donna Kwok (郭浩庄), an economist responsible for Greater China at HSBC Asia, said after last month’s seasonal factors, she would need to observe this month’s export reports before a reasonable assessment of Taiwan’s manufacturing fundamentals could be made.
Nevertheless, Kwok maintained the view that Taiwan’s exports might fall further before bottoming out toward end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter, having a negative impact on the nation’s growth outlook.
If growth continues to fall short of the government’s expectations, as expected, a 12.5 basis-point cut to interest rates remains on the cards this quarter, Kwok said.
The nation’s imports, or inbound shipments, dropped 11.9 percent from a year earlier to US$20.66 billion last month, the third straight month of decline, the ministry’s statistics showed.
That caused the nation’s trade surplus to slide 77.6 percent year-on-year, or 81.9 percent month-on-month, to US$420 million last month, compared with US$1.88 billion in January last year and US$2.32 billion in December.