The nation’s exports expanded 10 percent year-on-year to US$26.73 billion, as demand for new technology applications continued to gain momentum, even though shipments of smartphone components slowed due to seasonably low sales, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
The ministry said it expects growth momentum to continue at a similar pace this month partly on the back of holiday benefits.
“Last month saw all shipments to major trading markets grow, although some product categories showed signs of a slowdown,” Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) told a media briefing.
Shipments of electronic components last month increased 12.2 percent to a record US$8.55 billion, as demand for new technologies emerged and spread, Tsai said, citing applications linked to artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, connected vehicles and cryptocurrency mining.
While the market for smartphones appears to have peaked, mobile devices remained the main growth driver, which explained why semiconductors grew 13.8 percent to US$7.36 billion to account for 27.5 percent of overall exports, Tsai said.
Taiwan is home to the world’s largest contract chipmakers, which benefited from a steady improvement in the global economy, she said.
The slow sales season accounted for the 2.3 percent decline in information and communication gadgets and the 6.2 percent retreat in optical devices, the ministry’s monthly report found.
Growing competition from China also cut into shipments of large flat panels used in TV sets, Tsai said.
Non-technology exports fared well, as shipments of base metals, minerals, chemicals and plastic products last month increased from 12.9 to 41.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, supported by a healthy economy and price hikes, the report said.
Imports gained 4.9 percent to US$22.58 billion, leaving a trade surplus of US$4.15 billion, it said.
Imports of agricultural and industrial materials grew 8.1 percent, while consumer items added 4.4 percent to reach a new high, it added.
Capital equipment imports contracted by another 9.3 percent, as local semiconductor firms spent less than they did a year ago, Tsai said.
The ministry dismissed concerns over local firms’ conservative capital equipment purchases, saying that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) raised its spending budget for this year, despite a dim outlook for smartphone sales.
The high base last year had much to do with lackluster capital equipment acquisition this year, Tsai said.
Tsai said she is not sure if the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics is to further upgrade its GDP growth forecast for this year after a strong first-quarter showing.
“The agency has to take into account smartphone sales when updating its projection later this month,” Tsai said, adding that cryptocurrency is too volatile to be a reliable gauge.
For the first four months of the year, exports rose 10.5 percent year-on-year to US$106.47 billion, while imports increased 9.4 percent to US$90.56 billion, the report said.
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