Backed by a mild recovery in Asian markets, Taiwanese exports last month rose for a second straight month, which could be an indication that the economy has bottomed out and was starting to recover, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
However, prolonged weakness in major economies such as the US and Europe resulted in full-year exports — although the second-highest level in history at US$301.11 billion — falling 2.3 percent from a year ago, ministry data showed. It was the fifth time in history that outbound shipments showed a contraction.
Exports totaled US$26.1 billion last month, up 9 percent and 4.9 percent from a year and a month ago respectively, the ministry said in a report.
“The global economy has gradually returned to a steady track, with seasonal demand from China rising ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which helped boost exports last month,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
For the fourth quarter last year, exports rose 2.5 percent from a year ago to US$77.51 billion, ending three straight quarters of declines and providing more evidence of a global economic recovery, Yeh added.
Exports to major Asian markets — including China and Hong Kong, Japan and six major ASEAN members — all grew last month compared with a year earlier, with shipments to China and Hong Kong rising 10 percent to US$10.48 billion from a year earlier, the best performance since September 2011, the report said.
Shipments to Europe, which totaled US$2.68 billion last month, also ended seven months of contraction to rise 11 percent from a year earlier, data showed.
Exports to the US dropped 1.3 percent to US$2.7 billion because of slowing demand for information and communications technology (ICT) and mechanical products, the ministry said.
However, overall shipments of ICT products last month rose 2.1 percent from a year ago to US$1.42 billion, terminating 13 consecutive months of declines, Yeh said.
Yeh said she expected exports to continue rising this month and likely exceeding US$25 billion because of strong demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday next month and a lower comparison base last year, when the Lunar New Year fell in January.
On the import front, shipments last month edged up 1.6 percent from a year ago to US$21.98 billion, up from US$21.49 billion in November last year.
Cumulative imports for last year dropped 3.8 percent to US$270.73 billion, ministry data showed.
That resulted in a trade surplus of US$4.13 billion last month, lifting the trade surplus for the full year by US$3.56 billion to US$30.38 billion, data showed.
Tony Phoo (符銘財), a Taipei-based economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said the rise in imports showed that Taiwan’s economic growth in the fourth quarter may have found support from improving capital goods imports, adding that resilient producers’ confidence bodes well for capital expenditure and hiring this year.