Taiwan: Export growth remains strong in January despite slowing shipments of electronic parts
Merchandise exports rose 15.3% year-on-year in January to a total of USD 27.4 billion, slightly undershooting analysts’ expectations of 17.7% growth. January’s robust performance followed strong readings in the previous two months (+14.8% year-on-year in December), signaling that the external sector’s strong momentum continued into 2018.
Exports of electronic parts, which account for a third of Taiwan’s total shipments, slowed sharply in January compared to December, growing just 11.8% in annual terms (December: +20.5% year-on-year). This was more than offset by accelerating growth rates in other export categories such as base metals, and plastics and rubber. Growth of machinery exports, however, decelerated from December.
The 12-month trailing sum of exports expanded 13.9% in January, accelerating slightly from the 13.2% increase recorded in December. This brought the sum of exports in the 12 months up to January to USD 321 billion, up from USD 317 billion in 2017 as a whole.
Growth in imports reached 23.3% year-on-year in January, a sharp acceleration from the 12.2% growth recorded in December, to a total import value of USD 25.0 billion (December: USD 23.4 billion). Leading the print was stronger growth in imports of electronic parts compared to December; imports of machinery, chemicals and base metals also recorded stronger growth. Fuel imports, meanwhile, slowed from December. Growth in the 12-month trailing sum of imports increased to 13.8% in January, from 12.5% in the full-year 2017. Imports totaled USD 264 billion in the 12 months leading to January, up from USD 259 billion in the 12 months of 2017.
Finally, the trade surplus more than halved to USD 2.4 billion in January, from USD 6.1 billion in December, marking the lowest reading in over two years. This brought the total trade surplus over the 12 months to January to USD 56.8 billion, down from a multi-decade high of USD 57.9 billion for the full year 2017.