Exports dropped unexpectedly last month by 7 percent from a year earlier after rising for two straight months because of slowing global demand and a high comparison base last year, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday.
Last month’s outbound shipments totaled US$25.25 billion, a 1.5 percent decrease from August, the ministry said in a report.
The weaker-than-expected result dropped the third-quarter figure 0.8 percent lower than a year ago, completely missing the 1.62 percent growth target forecast by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.
The discrepancy between the exports projection and the results may see the government further revise down its full-year economic growth forecast.
However, for the first nine months of the year, exports totaled US$226.64 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent from a year ago, the report showed.
“[I do] feel a bit surprised at the results,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Sluggish demand in Taiwan’s major export markets was the major factor behind the decline, Yeh said, adding that a high comparison basis in September last year was another important factor.
Exports to China and Hong Kong, the US and ASEAN countries all showed a year-on-year contraction of about 10 percent last month, with exports to Europe increasing by 4.5 percent, signifying its recovering economic momentum, Yeh said.
Mineral exports shrunk by 20.3 percent last month from a year earlier — the largest annual decline among the major sectors — followed by optical and mechanical products, the report showed.
However, Yeh maintained an optimistic view about export volume this month, saying that outbound shipments in October were usually strong while those in September were normally weaker.
Meanwhile, strong exports of electronic products — which reached their highest level ever last month at US$7.83 billion — may help support overall export momentum over the near future, Yeh said.
Hong Kong-based ANZ Research senior economist Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆) said last month’s results may encourage policymakers to continue bolstering the New Taiwan dollar amid uncertainty in the global environment.
HSBC economist Ronald Man (文略韜) said the central bank is unlikely to adjust its policies this year as it aims to maintain an accommodative stance to support growth for the time being.
The ministry’s report also showed that imports last month stood at US$22.9 billion, down 0.7 percent from a year earlier, but up 8.8 percent from the previous month.
As a result, the trade surplus widened to US$2.35 billion last month from US$1.74 billion a year earlier, the data showed.