Exports down for 2nd straight month in December

Taipei, Taiwan's exports fell on a year-on-year basis for the 2nd consecutive month in December because of lower than expected demand for tech gadgets, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Monday.

But its exports for the year as a whole were still up from a year earlier, rising 5.9 percent to an all-time high of US$336.05 billion.

Imports for the year rose 10.6 percent to US$286.67 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$49.4 billion, down US$8.59 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Taiwan's exports in December fell 3.0 percent from a year earlier to US$28.61 billion, after a 3.4 percent year-on-year decline in November, according to data released by the MOF.

Before the fall in November, Taiwan had registered year-on-year export growth in 24 of the previous 25 months.

The MOF said December exports were dragged down by lower than expected shipments of the latest iPhone models, affecting Taiwan's suppliers, and falling flat panel prices.

A relatively high base of comparison in December 2017 was also cited by the MOF as a reason why exports fell during the month.

The December figure, however, was up 2.9 percent from a month earlier, the data showed.

Imports in December rose 2.2 percent from a year earlier to US$23.89 billion, leaving a trade surplus of US$4.71 billion, down US$1.42 billion from a year earlier, the MOF said.

In the fourth quarter, Taiwan's exports rose 0.1 percent year-on-year to US$85.96 billion, and imports rose 6.8 percent to US$73.26 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$12.7 billion, down US$4.58 billion year-on-year, the data showed.

Tsai Mei-na director of the MOF statistics department, said Taiwan enjoyed a strong first half but momentum gradually faded in the second half as it saw few benefits from the traditional high-tech peak season in the fourth quarter.

Fourth-quarter export growth even fell short of the 1.1 percent increase anticipated by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics at the end of November, Tsai said.

In December, exports of Taiwan's electronics component industry fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier to US$9.33 billion, and outbound sales of Taiwan-made semiconductors were down 7.5 percent from a year earlier at US$8.22 billion.

But exports of information devices and audio/video gadgets rose 12.1 percent from a year earlier to US$3.53 billion in December.

Base metal exports fell 5.2 percent to US$2.53 billion and exports of rubber/plastics items and chemical products dropped 2.9 percent to US$2.05 billion.

For the whole of 2018, electronics component exports from Taiwan rose 3.4 percent to US$110.80 billion, exports in information and audio/video products gained 3.6 percent to US$35.33 billion and base metal exports rose 9.0 percent to US$31.65 billion.

Exports of rubber/plastics products rose 10.0 percent to US$25.28 billion.

China and Hong Kong remained Taiwan's biggest market in 2018, with exports rising 6.3 percent from 2017 to US$138.40 billion, ahead of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (US$58.22 billion, down 0.6 percent) and the U.S. (US$39.70 billion, up 7.5 percent).

Looking ahead, Tsai said Taiwan's exports for 2019 could be affected by trade tensions between the U.S. and China and a global economic slowdown, and she expected export growth to be around 2 percent.

In 2019, export growth is projected to be 0.7 percent in the first half of the year due to a relatively high base of comparison in 2018, but it could pick up in the second half of the year to about 3 percent on an expected boost from tech exports during their peak season, Tsai said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel