Exports rose 7.9 percent from a year earlier to US$21.29 billion last month, driven by the low base effect caused by the Lunar New Year distortion, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
However, the figure was down 12.4 percent from US$24.31 billion in January, lower than the ministry’s expectations.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, exports for last month increased 1.7 percent from a year earlier, the fifth consecutive month of growth, the ministry said.
Combining data for the first two months of the year — a more accurate indicator — outbound shipments grew just 0.4 percent from a year earlier to US$45.6 billion.
“The sluggish demand on mineral products, optical instruments and ICT [information and communications technology] products made in Taiwan was the major factor for the sluggish trading momentum,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Exports of optical instruments last month dropped from a year earlier for the seventh straight month, followed by shipments of mobile phones, which fell for the fifth month in a row, statistics showed.
However, the growth of electronics and machinery exports helped offset the declines in other items during the first two months. Moreover, shipments of machine tools last month showed a 16.8 percent growth from a year earlier, ending a run of declines over the previous 16 months, Yeh said.
Yeh said the uncertainty in demand from Asia could be a risk to the nation’s exports this year, despite the economic recovery in the US and Europe.
ANZ Research senior economist Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆), who is based in Hong Kong, said the outlook for Taiwan’s trade remains generally positive, but risks remain and exports may face a bumpy ride going forward in view of competition from China and South Korea in global markets.
The ministry’s report also showed that imports for last month totaled US$19.72 billion, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier, but down 7.6 percent from the previous month.
In the first two months of the year, inbound shipments dropped 6.6 percent from a year earlier to stand at US$41.05 billion, leaving the nation’s trade surplus at US$4.54 billion in the first two months, the ministry said.