Exports last month contracted for a fifth consecutive month from a year ago, weighed down mainly by sluggish global demand for Taiwanese products led by continuous economic uncertainties, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Outbound shipments totaled US$24.85 billion last month, up 2 percent from a month earlier, but down 11.6 percent from a year earlier, deeper than the 3.2 percent contraction recorded in June, the ministry said in its monthly report.
“The base effect was the major factor widening the contraction of exports last month, as exports for last July marked the highest level in history by totaling US$28.12 billion,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
However, slowing demand on the back of a slowing global economy and greater competitiveness raised by overseas electronic firms were also key drivers in forcing Taiwan’s exports down, Yeh added.
Shipments of information and communications technology products — which encompass components for smartphones and tablet computers — dropped 34.5 percent to US$1.34 billion last month from the previous year, marking the largest contraction among the nation’s 10 major export sectors.
Declining sales of HTC Corp (宏達電) products, mainly due to a doubled-headed attack by global competitors Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co, helped significantly force down the sector’s figures, the ministry said.
Exports of electronic goods — Taiwan’s largest export sector — slid 7.2 percent last month from last year, the report said.
Exports may return to a faster pace this month, as the base effect would not be that significant in the months ahead, Yeh said, adding that in the worst case, the contraction of exports may narrow this month.
However, Sydney-based Katrina Ell, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, said supply constraints — coupled with sustained weakness in global demand — could delay the expected second half recovery.
New product launches, particularly for the iPhone 5, are set to be the key drivers behind the prediction she made for stronger exports in the second half of this year, Ell said in a research note.
On the import front, inbound shipments last month fell 3.2 percent year-on-year, but rose 9.9 percent month-on-month, to US$23.94 billion, the report’s data showed.
Imports of capital goods rose 7.6 percent to US$3.54 billion from the previous year, terminating the shrinkages seen over the past 12 months — mainly on the back of new investments by domestic semiconductor firms, the ministry said.
“The rebounding imports of capital goods showed some technology companies may have forecast additional demand in the near future,” Yeh said.
The trade surplus slowed to US$900 billion last month, from the US$2.6 billion posted in June, the ministry’s statistics showed.