The nation’s export orders saw a record decline last month, with orders to the US, Europe and China all experiencing record single-month retractions, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
Export orders fell 41.67 percent year-on-year to US$17.68 billion last month, following a drop of 33 percent the previous month, the ministry’s latest data showed. Last month’s figure represented a drop of 14.96 percent month-on-month.
Orders to the US, Europe and China fell by 36.75 percent, 30.73 percent and 54.71 percent respectively from the same period last year to US$4.56 billion, US$3.69 billion and US$3.66 billion.
“China, which typically accounts for one-third of the country’s export orders, ranking No. 2, was replaced by Europe and moved to the No. 3 spot in January,” Huang Ji-shih (黃吉實), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press briefing yesterday.
Furthermore, the top three industries in terms of export orders — telecommunications, consumer electronics and precision instruments — declined an average of 50 percent, Huang said. Telecommunications orders fell 30.47 percent to US$4.37 billion, consumer electronics orders dropped 38.85 percent to US$4.26 billion and precision instrument orders were down 61.13 percent to US$1.04 billion.
Meanwhile, the ministry said domestic manufacturers also saw a record decline in industrial production last month after many companies shut down factories or forced employees to take unpaid leave to cope with the economic downturn.
Industrial production plummeted 43.11 percent year-on-year, following a 32.3 percent decline in December, the ministry’s data showed.
Of the top five industrial categories, manufacturing, showed the largest year-on-year decline in industrial production at 44.71 percent, followed by mining, construction, power generation and water supply.
“We anticipate mild improvements in export orders and industrial output for this month because of more working days in the month as well as last-minute rush orders from China. But keep in mind rush orders are unplanned in nature and we therefore do not know how long they will last,” Huang said.
Of local companies polled, Huang said 22 percent expressed slight optimism for this month.
“Although 22 percent is low, it is better than what we had for January,” he said.
Both the latest export orders and industrial production data were worse than Citigroup’s forecast, which predicted yearly declines of 35 percent and 37.5 percent each for last month.
While last month’s figures were affected by the Lunar New Year holidays, “the outlook for the domestic economy continues to be very downbeat in the first quarter,” Citigroup economist Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂) said in a research note yesterday.
“This supports our view that real GDP growth will likely plunge by 8.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter — similar to the minus 8.36 percent [seen] in the fourth quarter,” Cheng said.
The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said last Wednesday it expected the economy to contract 6.51 percent year-on-year in the first quarter.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN CHEN