Sluggish Asian markets hold back exports

WEAK TRADE::The decline last month could prompt the DGBAS to trim its projections for full-year exports at a meeting later this month, an official said

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Nov 08, 2013 - Page 1

Exports last month contacted year-on-year for the second straight month, mainly due to sluggish demand from Asia, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

However, full-year exports may show a slight increase from last year, as outbound shipments this month and next month are both expected to reach US$25 billion, the ministry said.

Last month’s outbound shipments totaled US$26.12 billion, down 1.5 percent from a year ago, but up 3.4 percent from a month earlier, the ministry said in a report.

Cumulative exports in the first 10 months of the year stood at US$252.75 billion, an increase of just 1 percent from a year earlier, the report said.

“Combining data from the previous two months — the peak season for exports — outbound shipments this year have not been as good as those in previous years,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.

Yeh attributed the year-on-year contraction in exports last month to declining shipments of optical products, mainly due to sluggish demand for flat panels in China.

Exports of optical products shrank 24.7 percent last month from a year ago, showing a contraction of more than 20 percent for the second straight month, because of continuing inventory adjustments for flat-panel products in China, the report’s data showed.

Other than the optical sector, most of the nation’s major export products saw shipments rebound last month, Yeh added.

The slower-than-expected shipments last month may lead the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) to cut its forecast for full-year exports at its meeting later this month, Yeh said.

However, she said she remained confident that exports this year would still record a slight expansion.

Hong Kong-based ANZ Research senior economist Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆) said the path to global recovery remains rough, expressing concern over Taiwan’s export competitiveness.

“As the growth outlook remains uncertain, the central bank will continue to keep interest rates low for an extended period,” Yeung said in a research note.

The ministry’s report also showed that imports last month stood at US$22.6 billion, down 2.8 percent from a year earlier and 1.3 percent from the previous month.

It was also the fourth month in a row that inbound shipments showed an annual drop.

Imports of capital goods fell 4 percent last month from a year earlier, reversing a 13.2 percent year-on-year gain in the previous month, suggesting that the outlook for investment remains uncertain, data showed.

The ministry said the declining pace in import prices could be the other major factor dragging down overall imports.

As a result, the trade surplus widened to US$3.52 billion last month, up US$270 million from the same period last year, data showed.