Exports last month contracted for a fourth consecutive month from a year ago, weighed down by a weak global economy, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Outbound shipments totaled US$24.36 billion last month, down 3.2 percent from a year earlier and 6.6 percent from May, the ministry said in its monthly report.
“We thought that exports would reverse up last month, but the results were worse than expected,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Weaker-than-expected outbound shipments in the past few months dragged down exports in the first half of the year by 4.7 percent from a year ago to US$146.8 billion, the report said.
Lingering uncertainty over global economic prospects -remained the biggest factor affecting overall demand, with exports to the US, Europe, and China and Hong Kong all slowing down last month, Lin said.
Exports to China and Hong Kong — the largest market for Taiwanese goods — dropped 1.6 percent from a year ago to US$9.71 billion last month, mainly because of sluggish demand for optical equipment, basic metals and textiles, as China’s economic momentum slowed, data showed.
Sales to the US fell 14 percent from a year earlier to US$2.83 billion last month, while those to Europe slid 11.9 percent year-on-year to US$2.15 billion because of lower shipments of information and communications technology (ICT) products, statistics showed.
The continuous weak demand for ICT products has raised concern over the competitiveness of Taiwan-made smartphones and tablets, Lin added.
Sydney-based Katrina Ell, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, shared Lin’s concern over product competitiveness.
“Despite tentative signs of recovery in global technology demand, Taiwanese exports are still facing headwinds,” Ell said in a research note.
However, she added that she expected the year-on-year decline in exports to continue to shrink and that the second half of the year would be stronger, in line with improving industrial production and export orders.
The ministry remained cautious, saying exports would post another year-on-year drop this month because of the base effect.
On the import front, inbound shipments last month dropped 8.4 percent year-on-year and 8.6 percent month-on-month, to US$21.79 billion, the ministry said.
Imports of capital goods fell 7.9 percent to US$3.29 billion from the previous year, with mechanical imports contracting for the 12 straight month year-on-year, reflecting slower private investment, ministry data showed.
The trade surplus widened to US$2.6 billion last month, from the US$2.3 billion posted in May, as imports experienced a bigger fall than exports, the ministry said.