Export orders last month tumbled 5.5 percent year-on-year to US$51.9 billion as lockdowns in major Chinese cities weakened demand for most categories, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
It is the first time in two years that the gauge of actual shipments in the following one to three months has slipped into contraction, which was induced by supply chain bottlenecks after China halted business activity in Shanghai and Kunshan, home to major manufacturing facilities of Taiwanese companies.
Department of Statistics Director Huang Yu-ling (黃于玲) said export orders this month might decline by US$51.7 billion to US$53.2 billion, or a 1.1 percent decline to a 1.7 percent uptick, after China this week introduced gradual reopenings.
The slowdown is most conspicuous for information and communications products, which slumped 21.5 percent to US$1.21 billion as sales for laptops and smartphones floundered, Huang said.
The ominous cyclical movement came after the US and Europe opted to coexist with COVID-19, and showed less dependence on remote working and schooling products, the ministry said in a report.
The digital transformation has continued, fueling demand for networking devices and severs, it said.
That helped explain why export orders for electronics bucked the downtrend with a 4.3 percent increase as demand in the US and in Southeast Asian markets remained strong, although it slackened in China, it said.
The lackluster showing in the Chinese market was probably due to supply chain disruptions, it said.
Orders for optical products were the most affected, with demand for flat panels used in TVs and personal computers faltering, putting pressure on selling prices, the statement said.
Demand for base metals and machinery equipment fell 8.8 percent and 11.6 percent respectively as customers in China, the US and other countries turned conservative about capital investment, the ministry said.
Export orders for plastic products dropped 7.3 percent as demand for disease prevention products subsided, it said.
Chemical products gained 14.5 percent, continuing to benefit from the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up international energy and petrochemical product prices, even as China’s lockdowns weighed on demand in some markets, it said.
Orders from the US, China, Europe and Japan softened by 0.2 percent to 17 percent, but picked up 22.7 percent in ASEAN markets, the ministry said in the statement.
Companies expect flattish business with a mild upside in order value for this month, the ministry’s survey showed.
For the first four months of this year, export orders totaled US$225.02 billion, an increase of 10.4 percent from the same period last year, it said.
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