The nation’s exports last month dropped 5.3 percent from a year earlier to US$24.31 billion, ending three straight months of increases, because of a high base effect caused by the Lunar New Year distortion, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Last month’s number was also down 7.9 percent from the US$26.39 billion recorded in December last year.
The week-long holiday takes place at a different time each year. Last year it was in February, and this year it was in January.
“The Lunar New Year holiday has resulted in a different comparison basis,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Seasonally adjusted, exports for last month increased by 0.1 percent year-on-year, Yeh added.
Yeh said exports data would remain distorted for this month due to a low base effect, although she expects exports in the first two months of the year to expand from a year earlier amid the global economic recovery.
Yeh said that exports in this quarter could meet the government’s 0.26 percent year-on-year increase, which was forecast by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics in November last year.
Outbound shipments to China and Hong Kong, as well as to the six major ASEAN countries, underperformed other major export markets, further suggesting the Lunar New Year played a role in the poor results last month, Yeh said.
Exports to China and Hong Kong — Taiwan’s largest export market — contracted 10.3 percent to US$9.25 billion last month from a year earlier, from a 5.1 percent year-on-year gain posted in December last year, the report said.
However, exports shipped to the US and Europe reported 4.6 percent and 0.4 percent year-on-year growth respectively last month, reaching US$2.66 billion and US$2.43 billion, the ministry’s data showed.
In terms of products, despite a poor headline growth, exports of electronic products continued to outperform, gaining 8.5 percent to US$7.46 billion last month from a year earlier, followed by exports of chemical products, which increased 2.4 percent to US$1.86 billion year-on-year, data showed.
However, shipments of other products broadly declined last month from a year ago, with exports of optical instruments dropping to the lowest point since July 2009, shrinking 33 percent year-on-year to US$1.34 billion last month.
The ministry’s report also showed that imports last month stood at US$21.34 billion, down 15.2 percent from a year earlier and 11.8 percent from the previous month.
That caused the nation’s trade surplus to reach US$2.97 billion last month, adding about US$2.46 billion from a year earlier and US$760 million from a month ago, the ministry said.
Given the low inflation reading and the government’s latest projection of mild increments over the next few quarters of the year, ANZ Research Hong Kong-based senior economist Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆) said the central bank will keep the nation’s policy rate unchanged at least until its meeting in the fourth quarter.