Sat, Jan 21, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Export orders shrink for a second year

CONSERVATIVE OUTLOOK:The economics ministry expects export orders to grow this year, but is cautious amid the uncertainty over the Trump administration’s policies

By Lauly Li  /  Staff reporter

Export orders for last month climbed 6.3 percent annually, but dropped 5.5 percent from November, as smartphone sales slowed, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.

Last month’s results brought export orders for the full year to US$444.54 billion, down 1.6 percent from the previous year and weaker than government forecasts of a decline of 1.1 to 1.3 percent.

It also represented a second straight year of contraction, after 2015’s 4.4 percent drop.

“We expected sales of smartphones to be sustainable from the previous month, but shipments had apparently peaked and started to weaken last month,” Department of Statistics Director-General Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞) told a press conference.

On an monthly basis, orders for information technology and communication products, which include handsets, plunged 10.9 percent to US$13 billion, while electronics goods plummeted 9.1 percent to US$10.68 billion, ministry data showed.

Precision instruments, including flat-panels used in TVs and mobile devices, contracted 2 percent monthly to US$2.15 billion, while chemical products fell 2.9 percent to US$1.73 billion.

By export destination, orders from the US increased 1.3 percent year-on-year to US$127.6 billion last year, while demand from China and Hong Kong contracted 0.2 percent to US$107.11 billion.

Orders from Southeast Asia rose 1.7 percent to US$51.91 billion, but demand from Japan dropped 17.3 percent to US$24.61 billion and that from Europe fell 1.9 percent to US$86.94 billion, data showed.

The ministry expects export orders this month to increase between 0.9 and 3.8 percent to US$34.5 billion and US$35.5 billion, Lin said.

Export orders for this quarter are likewise expected to increase from the same period last year, she added.

However, Lin said she remained cautious about the scale of growth in the first half of this year, as the consumer electronics sector — including notebooks and smartphones — enters its slow season.

Prospects should pick up in the second half of the year, as global brands launch new devices, she said.

However, the biggest economic uncertainty this year would be trade policies under US President Donald Trump’s administration, Lin said, adding that these could have a long-term impact on Taiwan’s export performance.

Overall, the ministry expects export orders to swing back into positive territory this year, Lin said.

“The growth momentum of export orders has picked up since August last year. In addition, the rising prices of crude oil and basic raw materials bode well for the economy this year,” Lin said.

Specifically, the demand for flat panels, steel products, rubber and plastics goods, as well as petrochemical items are expected to remain stable throughout the year, she added.

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