The nation’s exports contracted 6.5 percent last month year-on-year, easing to a single-digit percentage for the first time in 11 months, as demand for electronics improved slightly and oil prices stabilized, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
The downturn has now continued for 15 consecutive months, longer than the trough following the 2008-2009 worldwide financial crisis, as international trade is in the doldrums and the nation’s exporters have failed to introduce game-changing innovations or tap new markets.
“The global economy remains soft and the improvement has much to do with a low base last year,” Department of Statistics Director-General Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) said.
The pace of the decline might widen this month, given the relatively high base of the same period last year and the continuing effect of this quarter’s off season for technology products, Yeh said.
Exports shrank 6.5 percent annually to US$22.25 billion last month, while imports fell 9.6 percent to US$17.45 billion, rendering a trade surplus of US$4.8 billion, ministry data showed.
All product categories posted negative year-on-year growth, except for machinery shipments, which gained 2.4 percent, due to the sector’s competitive advantage in the global market, the report said.
Exports of electronic products declined 3.4 percent to US$6.89 billion, while information and communications shipments retreated 11.4 percent to US$2.38 billion, the report said.
Together, the two product categories make up 41.7 percent of the nation’s exports, and the performance of the two sectors is key to the economy, the report said.
Shipments to China — which with 39.2 percent of total exports last month was the nation’s most significant export destination — last month dropped 6.8 percent annually to US$8.72 billion, narrowing from a 14.2 percent decline in March, the report said.
Sales of electronic components to China posted a 4 percent pickup, while shipments of optical, plastic and mineral products retreated, the report said.
A decline in exports to the US last month worsened to 12.7 percent year-on-year, from 8.5 percent in March as the world’s main end-market for consumer electronics bought fewer handheld devices, Yeh said.
However, demand from Europe appears to have stabilized with outbound shipments last month growing 10.4 percent to US$2.24 billion from the same period last year, compared with a 3 percent fall in March, the report said.
Yeh attributed the upturn to improving sales of basic metal, chemical and machinery products.
In the first four months, exports declined 10.7 percent from the same period last year, while imports fell 12.9 percent.
The ministry sees no indications of any recovery in the near term, Yeh said.
Capital equipment imports, a barometer of private investment, gained 6.4 percent year-on-year to US$3.07 billion, accelerating from a 0.3 percent increase in March, the report said.
However, local semiconductor companies acquired less equipment last month from a year earlier, although the year-to-date sum did show a modest increase, Yeh said.
Demand aside, crude prices continued to weigh on exports, but the impact appears to be tapering off, the official said.
Exports would have returned to positive territory last month in the absence of crude price disruptions, Yeh said.
TARGETED TEXTS: The center’s head said that visitor numbers at scenic spots were greater than expected and people did not do a very good job of social distancing The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday sent two warning text messages to urge people to practice social distancing, especially by avoiding crowded scenic areas. The two messages were sent at 11:55am on the third day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, reminding people about social distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent COVID-19 infection. “When visiting crowded scenic spots during the Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, please keep a social distance of at least 1.5m indoors and 1m outdoors, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. Please wear a mask and seek immediate medical attention if you are feeling ill
There is no need to lock down Taipei, but the International Workers’ Day long weekend from May 1 to 3 should be postponed, a public health researcher said yesterday. Although the spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan has not reached an extent that would necessitate the closure of any area, large crowds that gathered over the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, which ends today, showed reduced vigilance among some people, National Taiwan University College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said. This reduced vigilance increases the risk of the virus spreading, Chan said, adding that the government should push back national holidays to
As more schools shift to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers in Taipei yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to pay attention to the security risks associated with using the remote conferencing service Zoom. Following reports about privacy and security issues with Zoom, including that it sends data to China, groups such as NASA, the New York City government and the UK’s Ministry of Defence have reportedly banned its use. Zoom founder and chief executive officer Eric Yuan (袁征), a Chinese-American, has apologized, saying that the company would freeze the development of new features and shift its resources to
Seven new cases of COVID-19, including one domestic case, were reported yesterday by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which added “diarrhea of unknown cause” to the criteria for reporting suspected cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said the domestic case — the nation’s 352nd — is a man in his 40s who lives alone, did not travel abroad recently and began showing symptoms on Monday. “The man sought treatment for a fever at a clinic on March 30, went to the same clinic again on April 1 for loss of taste and smell, and