Taiwan August exports beat forecasts as retailers ready for Christmas

Wednesday's trade data followed weak inflation readings and comes three weeks before the central bank's next policy meeting.

By: Reuters | Taipei | Published:September 7, 2016 4:45 pm
Taiwan, Taiwan exports, Taiwan stocks, inflation, gadgets, exports, interest rates, Japan, Europe, smartphone market, business news, world market, indian express Traditionally, Taiwan’s exports are bigger in the second half of the year due to new product launches before Christmas. (Representational Image)

Taiwan’s exports grew more than expected in August as global retailers began stocking up smartphones and other hi-tech gadgets ahead of the year-end shopping season, but the rise was slight, keeping the chance of another interest rate cut alive.

Wednesday’s trade data followed weak inflation readings and comes three weeks before the central bank’s next policy meeting, building a case to keep monetary conditions loose to support the ailing trade-reliant economy.

Exports rose 1.0 percent from a year earlier, expanding for the second month after July’s 1.2 percent rise snapped a 17-month losing streak. While that beat market expectations for a 0.4 percent rise, the rate of expansion was still tepid.

“The global economic recovery is soft. Price falls in global oil and agricultural and industrial raw materials have slowed… Luckily, semiconductor demand was strong,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

Traditionally, Taiwan’s exports are bigger in the second half of the year due to new product launches before Christmas. This year, Apple Inc’s launch of the iPhone 7 is expected to boost shipments, though some analysts fear demand for the latest model will not be as strong as in the past.

Exports to China and the United States, Taiwan’s top two markets, rose 3.5 percent and 5.7 percent on-year, respectively, the ministry said, adding it expects further improvement in shipments to major markets.

Exports to Europe rose 2.1 percent, but those to Japan fell 1.9 percent.

Imports slipped just 0.8 percent, marginally worse than a 0.2 percent in July but much better than the 3.4 percent decline that economists had feared.

Still, with the trade sector far from being back on steady footing, the door may be open to a fifth straight central bank rate cut this year.

The overnight interbank rate opened Tuesday and Wednesday at its lowest level since late June, the last time the central bank sliced the policy discount rate.

And data earlier this week showed the consumer price index rose just 0.57 percent in August from a year ago.

“There is room for the central bank to trim rates from the current 1.375 percent,” a DBS note said before the trade data.

Indeed, electronic components was the only export category that expanded in August, surging 14.8 percent on-year, while shipments of information, communications and audio and visual products showed no growth at all. Exports of machinery products and transportation equipment fell.

George Chang, head of Taiwan research at Yuanta Research in Taipei, said Samsung Electronics recall of fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphones could indirectly help Taiwanese tech exporters if consumers switch to Apple.

Taiwan’s July export orders, a gauge of actual exports in 2-3 months’ time, fell sharply, though a private activity survey suggested a pick-up in August.

The trade outlook remains unclear, however, with the iPhone 7 expected to launch this week into a saturated market where consumers are opting for lower-priced rivals that pack the same features and quality.