The nation’s exports reached their highest level in more than one-and-a-half years last month on the back of recovering demand in major Asian markets.
Outbound shipments totaled US$27.23 billion last month, up 3.3 percent from a year earlier and 37.94 percent from a month earlier, marking the highest level since July 2011, the Ministry of Finance said in its monthly report.
Combining data from the first three months of this year, outbound shipments grew 2.4 percent from a year earlier to US$72.64 billion, less than the 4.7 percent growth forecast by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) in February.
“Export growth momentum is improving because of rising demand in China and other Asian markets,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), the ministry’s statistics department director, told a press conference.
“However, the weakness in the US and EU economies caused exports during the January-to-March period to miss the government’s growth target,” he said.
Exports of electronic products — the nation’s largest export sector — totaled US$7.47 billion last month, up 5.8 percent from a year ago and marking the third-highest level in history, the report said.
Shipments of information technology and communications (ICT) sector remained sluggish by dropping 11.9 percent year-on-year to US$1.23 billion last month, the report’s data showed.
The report also showed imports last month increased 0.2 percent from a year ago and 27.7 percent from a month ago to US$24.03 billion. For the first three months, imports rose 4.4 percent from the previous year to US$68 billion.
As a result, the trade surplus widened to US$3.2 billion last month from US$0.9 billion in February, with surplus in the first quarter totaling US$4.63 billion, down by US$1.15 billion from a year earlier, data showed.
Katrina Ell, a Sydney-based associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, yesterday said that the 0.2 percent growth in year-on-year imports last month was an unwelcome surprise.
“A high proportion of imports are used as inputs in production and ultimately return as exports, so it could be a sign that global technology demand is still shaky,” Ell said in a research note, adding that it might be a monthly one-off and import growth was likely to strengthen in the near future.
The ministry seems not to be worrying about imports, after inbound shipments of capital equipment posted a 15.5 percent year-on-year expansion in the first quarter to US$9.4 billion last month.
The rebound in capital equipment imports indicated derived momentum on production and exports, further making the ministry maintain an optimistic view that annual export growth could accelerate in the second quarter from the first quarter.
However, the ministry said exports this month may slow down from last month on the impact of fewer working days because of the four-day holiday that ended on Sunday.