First-quarter export orders increased 2.7 percent from a year ago to US$104.76 billion, buoyed largely by orders for information and communication products and electronics, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a report yesterday.
Although export orders were down by 14.8 percent compared with the previous quarter, the ministry is “optimistic” about the outlook for the current quarter.
Orders are expected to increase sequentially this quarter “at a slow pace,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference, citing vigorous demand for handsets and a steady global economic recovery.
Citing a survey by the ministry, Lin said 23.8 percent of companies surveyed forecast orders would grow this month from last month, 58.9 percent predicted orders would be flat and 17.4 percent expected orders to decline.
The ministry’s report showed that orders for information and communication products and electronics had risen for three consecutive quarters.
In the January-to-March period, orders for information and communication products — the country’s largest export item — rose 4.1 percent to US$26.17 billion from the same period last year, the ministry said.
Last month alone, orders for information and communication products grew 25.5 percent month-on-month and 8.6 percent year-on-year to US$9.39 billion.
Lin said Taiwanese smartphone vendor HTC Corp’s (宏達電) latest product — the HTC One M8 — “did not cause much impact” to export orders last month in view of the small volume shipped, while local firms did not report they had obtained new orders related to Apple Inc’s new-generation iPhones or iPads last month.
Still, the robust handset demand drove orders for electronics — the nation’s No. 2 export item — to expand 20.4 percent month-on-month and 10.1 percent year-on-year to US$9.29 billion last month. For last quarter, orders increased 8.9 percent to US$25.89 billion from a year earlier, according to the report.
“Smartphone vendors’ adoption of higher-spec components for their products did help sustain local electronics manufacturers’ order volume,” Lin said.
“The uptrend is expected to continue in the near term, as smartphone vendors enter new product cycles and there is a growing replacement demand for PCs after Microsoft ended support for its Windows XP operating system,” she added.
However, due to intense pricing competition initiated by their Chinese and South Korean rivals, local precision equipment makers saw orders drop 5.8 percent last quarter from the same period last year, the report said.
Orders for precision equipment, including touch panels used in smartphones, tablets and laptops, fell for an 11th-straight month to US$2.89 billion last month, ministry data showed.
That brought total precision equipment orders to a record-low US$7.5 billion in the first quarter, down 5.8 percent from US$7.04 billion a year ago, the report showed.