Taiwan's exports accelerated their decline in February as the four-day Lunar New Year holiday disrupted shipments and an expected rebound in the US economy hadn't filtered through to sales of computers and other goods.
Exports in February fell 20.5 percent year-on-year to US$8.05, marking the 12th straight month of decline. The total was also lower than January's US$9.69 billion, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Imports in February fell 28.1 percent from a year earlier to US$6.53 billion, down from January's US$7.36 billion. That boosted last month's trade surplus to US$1.52 billion, up 45 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said.
March exports and imports should still register year-on-year declines, but the falls should be in the single digits, said Hsu Kuo-chung (
Last year, Taiwan's economy contracted for the first time as exports of semiconductors, computers and other products fell 17 percent. While rising US production and spending suggest Taiwan's biggest market is pulling out of recession, demand hasn't risen enough to fill cargo space at shipping companies such as Evergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運).
"The economy has clearly started bottoming out, but an oversupply in cargo space is still an issue as the recovery is very gradual," said Carcel Chang, president of Evergreen, Taiwan's largest cargo shipping company.
Taiwan's government is counting on a rebound in US orders to return the economy to 2.29 percent growth this year after last year's 1.91 percent contraction.
US manufacturing grew in February for the first time in 19 months, and the country's services industry expanded at its fastest pace in 15 months, an industry survey showed.
That's fueling expectations that demand for computers and other electronic goods made by Taiwan companies will rise. The TAIEX has risen more than two-thirds in the past five months on hopes of a rebound in sales at exporters such as Quanta Computer Inc (
"I'm very optimistic about the global and domestic economy," said Matt Yeh, an economist at Taiyu Securities Investment Trust (
Nanya Technology, Taiwan's largest maker of computer memory chips, said sales in February almost tripled from a year ago as rising computer demand boosted chip prices and sales.
Electronics exports, which made up the biggest share of the total, fell 23.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the ministry said. Shipments of mobile phones and other telecommunications goods fell 11.1 percent.
Exports to Hong Kong, the nation's biggest market, fell 19.3 percent to US$1.74 billion. Most Taiwan-made goods bound for China pass through Hong Kong since direct transportation links with China are prohibited.
Exports to the US slipped 20.6 percent from a year earlier to US$1.72 billion, the ministry said. Exports to Japan declined 30.2 percent to US$867.4 million, and exports to Europe dropped 21.6 percent to US$1.36 billion.