Exports last month contracted for the sixth consecutive month from a year ago, providing further evidence that outbound shipments for the full year might post its first contraction since the global financial crisis unfolded, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
However, exports may return to growth this month on the back of a lower comparison base, higher shipments of mineral products and the coming peak shopping season in the US and Europe, the ministry said.
Outbound shipments totaled US$24.69 billion last month, down 4.2 percent year-on-year and 0.6 percent month-on-month, the ministry said in a report.
“The sluggish global demand for Taiwan-made products caused by the global economic slowdown was the major factor that dragged down exports,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Exports of information and communications technology (ICT) products — which fell 23.9 percent from a year earlier to US$1.2 billion last month — marked the largest contraction among the 10 major export categories. They were followed by shipments of chemical products and metal products.
Shipments to Taiwan’s major export destinations — such as Europe, the US, as well as China and Hong Kong — also continued their downward trend, a ministry report said.
However, exports to six major ASEAN members rose 24.2 percent from the previous year to US$4.64 billion, led by shipments to the Philippines and Singapore, which were up by 110 percent and 40.1 percent respectively, mainly because of strong demand for mineral and petroleum products.
Singapore has overtaken Japan to become Taiwan’s third-largest export market this year, behind China (including Hong Kong) and the US.
With exports in the first eight months of the year falling 5.6 percent from a year ago to US$196.34 billion, Yeh said the full-year figure could post its first annual contraction since 2009.
Last month, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics forecast that exports would shrink 1.72 percent this year.
On the import front, inbound shipments last month fell 7.6 percent and 10.7 percent from a year and a month ago respectively to US$21.38 billion, data showed.
While imports of capital goods slid 4.7 percent to US$2.96 billion last month from the previous year, semiconductor equipment imports rose for the third straight month, the ministry said.
The steady rise in imports of semiconductor equipment is a positive sign for future electronic exports, Yeh said.
The trade surplus expanded to US$3.31 billion last month, from the US$904 million posted in July, but dropped US$720 million from a year ago to US$15.43 billion in the first eight months of the year, ministry statistics showed.