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Fueled by holidays, January retail sales hits record of NT$355.1 bil.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Fueled by shopping sprees over the Chinese New Year holiday, Taiwan's retail turnover rose 6.4 percent year-on-year and scored a record monthly high of NT$355.1 billion in January.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) showed that the manufacturing production index in January dropped 1.93 percent due to fewer working days because of the Chinese New Year holiday and weak market demand for liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels, computers and electronic products for the month.

Nevertheless, the integrated circuit (IC) industry witnessed an annual growth of 6 percent in the same month due to rising demand for emerging products like mobile devices, which has stimulated production of IC foundry as well as package and testing house.

Total business turnover in January reached NT$1.24 trillion, the fifth consecutive monthly positive growth of 2.1 percent.

Turnover of the wholesale sector in January remained the same as last year, while food and beverage sector turnover went up by 11.8 percent to NT$36.3 billion, to which restaurants contributed NT$31.4 billion, the highest of its kind and a sizable 12.2 percent annual growth.

Manufacturing Growth May Turn Positive in February

The MOEA believes manufacturing production index growth may turn positive in February, since the global economy is recovering and Taiwan's semiconductor and high-end optical parts remain competitive in the global market.

A business climate survey conducted in January by the Taiwan Institute for Economic Research (TIER), a local think tank, found that 47.9 percent of respondents said they expect the business outlook to improve over the next six months, up from 38 percent in December.

An economist with Standard Chartered told the Central News Agency that this shows a continuing rebound in local producers' confidence, which should bode well in terms of capital expenditure spending as well as hiring for at least the first half of 2014.

The Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK) recently gave a rosy forecast for Taiwan's information and communications technology (ICT) sector output for 2014 at NT$5.87 trillion, up 4.98 percent from the NT$5.6 billion recorded in 2013. The projected growth outpaces growth in the manufacturing sector as a whole, which the IEK forecast at 3.17 percent for 2014.

IEK credited the increasing popularity of hand-held and wearable devices and tablet computers for driving the ICT sector amid a warming global economy. Though modest by comparison, other manufacturing industries are predicted to see positive growth over the year.

IEK put output growth in the chemical industry at 3.14 percent to NT$5.27 trillion, in the commodity industry at 1.93 percent to NT$2 trillion, and in the metals and electronics sector at 1.65 percent to NT$4.6 trillion.

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