Export orders move back to the black after six months

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Oct 20, 2012 - Page 1

Export orders expanded year-on-year for the first time in more than half a year last month, fueled by rebounding demand for smartphones, tablets and TVs from China and the US, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.

Export orders grew 1.9 percent year-on-year last month to US$37.66 billion, compared with US$36.96 billion in the corresponding period last year, the ministry’s statistics showed. That was a monthly increase of 4.2 percent from US$36.15 billion in August.

The annual growth lagged a 4.1 percent expansion forecast by Taipei-based Standard Chartered Bank economist Tony Phoo (符銘財).

“Overall, today’s export orders data should lend support to our view that the economy is likely to stage a modest growth rebound into 2013, after a surprisingly weak second quarter. This also indicates that the central bank will continue to focus on inflation risks,” Phoo said.

The much-awaited improvement sent a positive sign that the nation’s exports are on track to pick up gradually this quarter on an annual basis on demand for handheld devices during the Christmas shopping season, after a bumpy ride over the past six months.

“As export orders are stabilizing, we believe there is a big chance of seeing positive growth in the fourth quarter compared with the same period last year, plus the base was not very high last year,” Ministry of Economic Affairs Statistics Department Director-General Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞) told a media briefing. “The situation is improving month by month, though it is not strong enough yet to say it is a full-blown recovery.”

In the July-to-September period, exporters received US$109.75 billion in orders, down 1.4 percent from a year ago. That was a quarterly expansion of 0.7 percent.

“Increased demand for smartphones and tablets has boosted orders for IT and electronics products,” Lin said. “China’s Oct. 1 shopping season also helped boosted demand for LCD panels, as the Chinese government launched a new subsidy program for the purchase of energy-efficient TVs.”

Orders of electronics products, the nation’s second-biggest export item, expanded 2.2 percent year-on-year to US$8.85 billion, while orders of industrial precision products, primarily LCD screens, grew 12.5 percent to US$3.55 billion, according to the ministry’s data.

Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), a former Citigroup economist based in Taipei, said: “It is almost certain that Taiwan’s export orders will grow annually in the next few months, but if you look at the figure month by month, September could be the peak of the year.”

The ministry is relatively upbeat based on its survey. This month, export orders could be flat, or grow slightly from last month. The ministry forecast that export orders would fall in a range between US$37 billion and US$37.8 billion this month. The figure was US$37.21 billion in October last year.

“Sales of new PCs [running Microsoft Corp’s] Windows 8 [operating system] and developments in the eurozone debt crisis will be key factors to watch,” Lin said.

Export orders from the nation’s top two export destinations — China and the US — expanded 4.8 percent and 9.2 percent year-on-year to US$10.2 billion and US$9.2 billion respectively.