The nation’s exports showed a double-digit decline last month from a year earlier, ending a fourth straight month of growth, as fewer working days in the month dragged down shipments, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Exports stood at US$19.74 billion last month, down 15.8 percent year-on-year and 23.1 percent month-on-month, the ministry said in a report.
Director of the ministry’s statistics department Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) attributed the decrease to the impact of the Lunar New Year holiday.
However, on a seasonally adjusted basis exports actually increased 2.1 percent last month, which represented a seventh consecutive month of growth and indicated that exports are gaining momentum on the back of a mild recovery in the global economy, the report said.
Combining data for the first two months of this year — a more accurate indicator — outbound shipments grew 2 percent from a year earlier to US$45.41 billion, a positive sign for the export sector, Yeh said.
Exports to the six main ASEAN members totaled US$8.74 billion in the first two months, reaching its highest level ever during the same period, with exports to China and Hong Kong up 4.3 percent to US$17.53 billion, both signifying a stable trend, the report’s data showed.
However, shipments to the US and Europe both contracted in the first two months of the year, as demand from these markets remained weak.
The ministry said it remained confident that exports in the first quarter could grow from a year earlier, but the pace of growth might be slower than the 4.7 percent growth forecast by the government’s statistics agency last month.
The ministry’s report also showed imports declined 8.5 percent year-on-year and 25.3 percent month-on-month to US$18.82 billion, with aggregate imports rising 7 percent to US$44.02 billion in the first two months of the year from the same period a year earlier.
As a result, the nation’s trade surplus was US$1.39 billion in the first two months of the year, down US$2 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.
Katrina Ell, a Sydney-based associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, said yesterday that Taiwan’s exports may trend higher this month, with imports following a similar pattern, citing a high proportion of imports that will be ultimately transformed into goods for export.
Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆), a Hong Kong-based economist at ANZ Research, said the central bank is expected to maintain its current interest rate policy at its board meeting on March 28, adding in a note that “despite resilient trade, domestic demand remains weak.”