The nation’s export orders fell 2.8 percent annually to US$36.11 billion last month, ending six consecutive months of annual expansion, due to slow seasonal demand and fewer working days, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
The figure hit the lowest level since July of last year as five of seven major items posted an annual decline.
Orders for the nation’s third-largest export item — precision equipment, primarily flat panels — shrank 7.3 percent year-on-year to US$2.53 billion as demand for LCD panels used in TVs and PCs declined in the slow season, the ministry said.
“However, growth came from increased demand for mobile devices, not PCs,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s department of statistics, said at a press conference.
“Local tech firms felt the pinch from intensifying industry competition from companies such as Group Ltd (聯想). Local firms received fewer orders for PCs,” Lin said.
Orders for information and communications products, the biggest export item and one of the growth areas, increased 0.6 percent last month from US$9.24 billion during the same period last year, supported by increased demand for mobile devices, the ministry said.
Orders for electronics rose 2.7 percent last month from a year ago to US$8.88 billion, boosted by increased demand for advanced chips for mobile devices and DRAM, the report showed.
Last month’s export orders represent a 14.7 percent month-on-month decline from US$42.31 billion in December last year.
Orders for information and communications products fell by up to 22.5 percent to US$9.3 billion last month from US$12 billion in December of last year, as demand dwindled after the year-end holiday buying spree, the ministry said.
Entering the slow season, orders for electronics, including chipsets and camera lenses used in handsets, declined 14.7 percent to US$8.88 billion last month from US$10.41 billion the previous month, the ministry said.
Lin said there is the likelihood that orders for information and communications products and electronics would continue to grow year-on-year in the following months on the back of robust demand for middle and entry-level handset products in emerging markets.
However, local PC makers, including Acer Inc (宏碁) and Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), should carefully adjust their business strategies to stay competitive in the market because of weakening demand for PCs amid rising demand for smartphones and tablets, and intensifying competition in China.
Taipei-based Standard Chartered Bank economist Tony Phoo (符銘財) said last month’s export orders beat his estimate of a 7.6 percent year-on-year drop.
“We believe the dip in last month’s data to be temporary, due mainly to Lunar New Year holiday effect,” Phoo said.
Citing gradual improvement in the global economy, Lin said the nation’s export orders this month would regain annual growth by receiving more orders than the US$29.04 billion received in February last year.
“With the Lunar New Year holiday effect diminishing, export orders this month are expected to achieve single-digit percentage growth from a year ago,” Lin said.