Exports rose 9.4 percent to US$24.32 billion last month from a year earlier, with growth decelerating from March’s 13.2 percent, as demand for electronics used in smartphones and TVs slowed in China, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Despite inventory adjustments, outbound shipments are expected to continue expanding at a high single-digit percentage this month and beyond, amid a stable economic recovery worldwide, the ministry said.
“Demand for smartphones and large-sized TVs turned out weaker than expected over the Labor Day sales season, prompting firms to adjust inventory,” Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.
The Chinese market accounted for 39.5 percent of Taiwanese exports and 50 percent of all electronics shipments, Tsai said.
Electronics underpinned exports with a 31.4 percent contribution last month, led by demand for semiconductors, Tsai said, citing the ministry’s monthly report.
Imports of semiconductor equipment rose 80.9 percent last month from a year earlier, indicating that growth momentum for semiconductors remain strong, Tsai said.
Imports expanded at a faster pace of 23.5 percent to US$21.53 billion last month from a year earlier, shrinking the trade surplus to US$2.78 billion, a decrease of 41.9 percent from the same period last year, the report showed.
The trend could help downsize the nation’s current account surplus, one of the main reasons the US Department of the Treasury keeps Taiwan on its currency monitoring list.
Exports to all major trading partners rose and all product categories registered increases, with the exception of textile products due to a seasonal slowdown, the report said.
Shipments to ASEAN markets gained faster momentum, rising 14.1 percent year-on-year to US$4.59 billion last month, the report said, as Taiwanese firms increasingly shift production activity to Southeast Asia.
The migration has helped spur demand for Taiwanese machinery tools, which might receive a further boost as more manufacturers worldwide replace human labor with automation to improve productivity and cut labor costs, Tsai said.
For the first four months of the year, exports expanded 13.6 percent to US$96.42 billion, while imports gained 22.1 percent to US$82.86 billion, the report said.
The cumulative trade surplus amounted to US$13.56 billion, a drop of 20.4 percent from the same period last year.
Tsai declined to speculate on inventory demand related to Apple Inc’s next-generation mobile devices, saying local firms have not given any clues and the ministry is not in a position to tell.
Foreign-exchange volatility and growing competition from Chinese exporters pose downside risks, she said.
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