Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Exports drop 3.2% amid slow demand

RECOVERY:Shipments to major markets such as China and the US posted declines, while those to emerging markets in Southeast Asia posted a double-digit increase

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Exports last month contracted 3.2 percent year-on-year, but expanded by double digits from a month earlier as global demand for electronic products slowly recovered, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

Exports totaled US26.34 billion (NT$778.82 billion) last month, increasing 12.6 percent from February as the global technology sector slowly emerged from a trough, providing a boost to the nation’s export-oriented economy, the ministry said.

“The latest figures lent support for a continued recovery, although the pace of pickup remained weak,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a media briefing.

Imports declined by a faster 5.8 percent year-on-year to US$23.99 billion last month, as companies tempered purchases of capital goods amid a global slowdown, Lin said.

However, compared with February, imports were up 16.6 percent, lifting the trade surplus by 34 percent to US$2.36 billion last month, Lin said.

For the first three months of the year, exports amounted to US$70.83 billion, shrinking 4 percent from a year earlier and missing the ministry’s forecast of 0.5 percent growth for the quarter, Lin said.

While confident about exports improving going forward, the official said it would not be easy for the critical economic gauge to post annual growth in the months ahead given the high base last year.

Shipments to China (including Hong Kong) decreased 7 percent year-on-year to US$10.45 billion last month, the ministry’s data showed, as exporters battled slow demand in its largest overseas market.

Exports to the US and Europe retreated 8 percent and 11.6 percent to US$2.73 billion and US$2.7 billion respectively, the data showed. Shipments to Japan also weakened 3.6 percent to US$1.4 billion.

Demand from emerging markets in Southeast Asia remained active, increasing 11 percent to US$4.86 billion last month, the ministry’s report showed.

Shipments of electronics products, which accounted for 26.7 percent of overall exports, edged up 0.2 percent to US$7.03 billion from the same period last year, the report showed.

Exports of basic metals, plastic and chemical products declined between 6 and 7 percent last month from the same time a year ago, while shipments of optical and information and communications products dropped by 12.3 percent and 6.9 percent respectively, it said.

Shipments of mineral products rose nearly 20 percent year-on-year to US$1.97 billion, according to the report.

Economists had different readings of the latest export data.

Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), head economist at Citigroup Taiwan, said the figures confirmed a steady recovery and foretold a stronger GDP performance in the second quarter.

“The economy proved weaker than expected last quarter, but would expand faster from this quarter as evidenced by the broad-based pickup for two months running,” Cheng said by telephone.

Tony Phoo (符銘財), a Taipei-based economist at Standard Chartered Bank, was more cautious, saying the global technology cycle was stabilizing, but the strength of recovery was mild at best.

“The annual decline in [last month’s exports] is disappointing, but the absolute value is not bad at over US$26 billion,” Phoo said by telephone.

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