Exports contracted further last month from the same period last year as demand for electronics remained weak and steeper crude oil price declines sapped non-technology exports, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Outbound shipments dropped 11.9 percent to US$23.55 billion last month, surprisingly down by double digits for the second straight month, though the pace eased from a 13.9 percent fall in June, Department of Statistics Director Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) said.
The figures suggested a bumper start to the third quarter, traditionally a high season of inventory building for Taiwanese firms in the supply chain of global smartphone and personal computer brands.
Imports retreated by 17.4 percent year-on-year to US$19.93 billion last month as Taiwanese bought fewer imported cars, but companies increased capital equipment on expectations of business improvement, the report said.
That left a trade surplus of US$3.62 billion last month, a 38.4 percent pickup from a year earlier, the report said.
“All major trading partners worldwide except in the US continued to cut inventories amid global trade slowdown,” Yeh said, adding that a strong greenback lent support to the conservative sentiment.
The report showed that shipments to the US, the main end-market for consumer electronics devices, gained 1 percent last month from a year earlier, while exports to other destinations saw contraction.
Exports to China stumbled 13.8 percent last month, while exports to ASEAN markets, where a growing number of Taiwanese firms cluster in pursuit of cheap labor, fell 18.9 percent, the report said.
Those to Japan stayed flat, while exports to Europe contracted 15.7 percent, the report said.
The global recovery appears slow and fragile given trade volatility, Yeh said.
The decline in mineral exports widened to an annual 53.6 percent last month, after tapering for several months, as crude prices took a dive to US$54.19 a barrel, from US$105.61 a barrel, Yeh said.
Likewise, plastics and chemicals exports dropped 23.8 percent and 15.9 percent respectively from a year earlier, the report said.
Technology also fared poorly, with electronics exports down 2 percent, information and communications shipments down 10 percent, and optical exports down 9.2 percent from a year earlier, it said.
The much-anticipated introduction of Apple Inc’s iPhone 6S next month is not expected to create as big a splash as the iPhone 6 last year, analysts said, boding ill for the local supply chain, including chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電), camera lens supplier Largan Precision Industry Co (大立光) and assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密).
Looking forward, exports are set to worsen this month, as the comparison base last year is the second-highest in history and major petrochemical product makers might see lower shipments as they conduct annual maintenance in their plants, Yeh said.
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