Export orders edged down 1.58 percent to US$38.37 billion last month, from a record-high US$38.99 billion a year ago, as demand for smartphones and flat panels dwindled because of product transition and a teetering European economy, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
Export orders from Europe, the nation’s third-largest export destination, plummeted 9.26 percent year-on-year last month, posting their sharpest annual decline in about two-and-a-half years.
“The decrease [in orders] reflected the high unemployment rate in Europe and the austerity measures adopted by some countries in the region sapped demand,” Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜), deputy director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference yesterday.
Export orders from the US grew 6.4 percent year-on-year to a record US$9.12 billion last month, while those from China slid 2.5 percent annually to US$9.97 billion last month, ministry data showed.
On a monthly basis, export orders grew 13.01 percent from February’s US$33.95 billion and marked the second-highest level in history.
The ministry said improving demand from the US and China, the nation’s two biggest export markets, offset the sharp decline in orders from Europe and Japan.
Orders in the first quarter grew 1.46 percent to US$103.81 billion from US$102.32 billion a year ago, data showed.
This month, export orders are expected to expand about 2 percent from last year’s US$37.41 billion, as a sentiment index, released by the ministry, stood at 55.02, well above the base of 50, the ministry said.
The growth momentum is expected to carry through the whole of the second quarter, as the ministry’s quarterly sentiment index spiked to 73.67.
“Global Insight and the IMF raised their world economic growth forecast in March and April, reinforcing the belief that the world economy is recovering at a slow pace. This is a positive sign as Taiwan’s export orders echo world economic development,” Tsai said.
“Overall, we think Taiwan’s export orders are recovering mildly quarter by quarter in line with the global economic recovery, as they did in the first quarter,” Tsai said.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of new smartphones and Ultrabooks hitting the market, helping fuel growth,” she said.
In China, the Labor Day holiday, which begins on May 1, should boost orders as buyers build up inventories, she said, adding that this should be positive for major Taiwanese export items, such as handsets, LCD panels and electronic components.