Exports last month grew 2 percent year-on-year to US$40.34 billion, weaker than an expected 8 to 12 percent increase, as demand for non-tech products declined and semiconductor shipments slowed, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday.
Export growth might contract this month, ending 26 months of annual expansion, as a COVID-19-spurred boom dies out and global recession fears escalate amid sharp inflation and monetary tightening, Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.
“Exports last month disappointed and are bound to miss the forecast by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics for this quarter,” Tsai told an online news conference.
The chilling effect apparently arrived one quarter earlier, after the statistics agency last month predicted that a slowdown in exports for five consecutive quarters would start next quarter.
Except for electronics, shipments contracted for most product categories, including information and communications technology (ICT), base metal, machinery, chemical, plastic and optical products, Tsai said.
Shipments of electronic goods gained 12 percent to US$17.05 billion, with semiconductor exports expanding 14.3 percent, thanks to demand from 5G, data centers, cloud computing, automotive and Internet-of-Things applications, she said.
ICT products reported the first decline of 1.6 percent in two years, while flat-panel exports plunged 35.7 percent, as benefits linked to remote working and distant schooling disappeared, she said.
Furthermore, concern has emerged over the business outlook for servers and cloud computing devices, Tsai said.
The upcoming release of Apple Inc’s new iPhone series and wearables helped boost business for their component suppliers and assemblers in Taiwan, but a slowing global economy remained a drag, she said.
Exports to China again faltered, retreating 9.9 percent, due in part to COVID-19 restrictions and power shortages, Tsai said.
Exports to the US and Europe eked out small gains of 2.3 percent and 2.6 percent respectively, as inflation and monetary tightening weighed on consumption, she said.
Exports to ASEAN markets advanced 17.6 percent, as companies shifted orders from China to manufacturing facilities in Southeast Asia, Tsai said.
Against this backdrop, exports this month could either shrink 3 percent or rise 1 percent, she said.
Imports also took a hit with a mild 3.5 percent increase to US$37.35 billion last month, giving Taiwan a trade surplus of US$2.99 billion, which is 13.7 percent lower than a year earlier, the ministry said.
Capital equipment imports shrank 2.2 percent as local firms turned cautious about capacity expansion.
For the first eight months of the year, exports increased 16.2 percent year-on-year to US$330.32 billion, while imports grew 20.9 percent to US$294.63 billion, ministry data showed.
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