Tue, Apr 09, 2019 - Page 12 News List

Exports fall on low electronics demand

BRIGHTER OUTLOOK:Exports have a chance of increasing by 2.5 percent this month as companies recover some confidence, the Department of Statistics’ director-general said

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The nation’s exports last month contracted 4.4 percent from a year earlier to US$28.68 billion, after an 8.8 percent decline in February, as demand for electronics remained soft in the traditional slow season, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

However, improving business confidence might nudge outbound shipments temporarily back into growth territory this month, as the US and China negotiate further and seek to end their trade differences, the ministry said.

“Exports have a moderate chance of increasing by 2.5 percent this month, as companies recover some confidence,” Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.

The increase might not be enough to reverse a quarterly decline for the April-to-June period, when technology brands typically remain low key ahead of the release of next-generation models in the fall, Tsai said.

Taiwan is home to major contract manufacturers of electronics components critical to smartphones, laptops, TVs and peripheral devices, the ministry said in a report, but flagging smartphone sales caused electronics shipments to fall 13.3 percent to US$9.14 billion.

Electronics shipments form the bulk of overall exports, a 31.9 percent share, the report said, adding that semiconductor shipments in particular shrank 12.9 percent to US$8.1 billion.

Hsinchu-based Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) has signaled that its performance should improve each quarter this year, raising hopes that the worst is over, Tsai said.

A brighter outlook helps explain why imports of capital equipment advanced 34.9 percent to US$5.18 billion, with purchases by local semiconductor firms increasing 83.1 percent, Tsai added.

Capacity expansion and needed upgrades pushed up imports by 6.6 percent to US$25.56 billion, decreasing the trade surplus by 48.1 percent from a year earlier to US$3.12 billion, the report said.

Stabilizing prices for oil and raw materials also lent support to businesses, as a decline in the export of products from base metals, chemicals and minerals eased in a range from 4.5 to 8.9 percent, from a double-digit percentage pace in February, it said.

First-quarter exports contracted 4.2 percent from last year, worse than the 2.81 percent drop projected by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics in February.

Imports fared better than expected with a 0.8 percent decline, compared with a predicted 2.46 percent retreat. The statistics agency is due to update its growth forecast next month.

The US-China trade dispute helped cut Taiwan’s dependence on Chinese markets by 3.01 percentage points and ASEAN markets by 1.53 percentage points, as some companies based in China relocated to avoid extra tariffs imposed by Washington on Chinese exports, the ministry said.

The US increased as an export destination by 2.87 percentage points, while South Korea increased by 1.02 percentage points, it added.

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