Taiwan’s exports last month slumped 17.1 percent from a year earlier to US$31.05 billion, the lowest amount in two years, as demand softened for all shipments except mineral products amid a global slowdown, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
The poor showing and also the sixth consecutive month of declines came after the holiday effect faded and is likely to remain similarly weak this month, resulting in a worse first-quarter result than was forecast by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.
“Global trade is taking a harder hit from inflation, monetary tightening and geopolitical conflicts,” Tsai told an online news conference.
People are placing more emphasis on travel these days, and are displaying tepid interest in buying tech gadgets, Tsai said.
That has driven technology firms to approach inventory management cautiously, she said.
Rumors that South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co is cutting prices to secure orders for mature chips confirmed a bleak market, she added.
Shipments of electronics tumbled 17.8 percent to US$12.94 billion, consistent with sluggish demand for smartphones and notebook computers, despite several quarters of inventory adjustments, Tsai said.
Exports of information and communication technology products shrank a less drastic 9 percent to US$4.16 billion, as graphics cards and networking and communications devices gained support from artificial intelligence applications, Tsai said.
Shipments of chemical, plastic, textile and metal products were anemic, retreating by double-digit percentage points while selling prices were discounted, she said.
The slowdown in exports hit all major markets except for Japan, where outbound shipments grew 1 percent from a year earlier due to healthy demand for electronics, Tsai said.
Shipments to China, Taiwan’s largest trade partner with a 35.4 percent share, plunged 30.2 percent to US$11 billion — the main reason for the decline, she said.
The situation might improve, as China is about to introduce stimulus measures to bolster its manufacturing and property sectors, Tsai said.
Imports last month decreased 9.4 percent to US$28.7 billion, giving Taiwan a trade surplus of 2.35 billion, down 59.3 percent from the same period last year, the ministry’s report showed.
The drop in imports was due to local firms reducing purchases of materials used for exports, as well as capital equipment intended for capacity expansion, Tsai said.
In the first two months of the year, exports plunged 19.2 percent year-on-year to US$62.56 billion, while imports shrank 13.3 percent to US$57.86 billion, the ministry said.
The figures mean first-quarter exports could contract 18 percent from a year earlier, more than the government’s February projection of 15 percent, Tsai said.
Still, shipments would bottom out this quarter and thereafter improve quarter-on-quarter, she said.
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