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Exports grow 1.4 percent in May

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Exports in May grew 1.4 percent to US$26.67 billion, while imports dipped 2.3 percent to US$21.38 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$5.29 billion, according to a report released by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) yesterday.

May marked the fourth consecutive month of growth in exports, according to the report. However, the 1.4 percent was lower than the market expectation of 4.5 percent.

Among export products, electronic products surged 15.2 percent to US$8.56 billion, which was a new record. All sub-categories saw double-digit growth, such as the 16-percent growth in integrated circuits, 37.7-percent growth in solar batteries, 15.1-percent growth in storage media and 11.3-percent growth in diodes.

Mineral, ICT and Optical Products Underperforms

Exports of chemical products grew 10.3 percent to US$1.87 billion. However, exports of mineral products, information and communication technology (ICT) products and optical instruments saw substantial decline in May, dropping 22 percent, 21.2 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively.

As annual repair and maintenance halted plant operation, mineral product output and exports dropped, the MOF said.

Among ICT products, exports of mobile phones dropped 37.2 percent and mobile phone parts and components went down 15.1 percent as well. In addition to lower-than-expected sales, the drop also reflected the fact that some production facilities have moved overseas, and their output is not factored into the MOF's statistics, said MOF Statistics Department Director Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足).

Import Performance

Imports went down 2.3 percent in May, which was the first time in fourth months.

Imports of capital equipment went down 8.5 percent to US$3.07 billion, with machinery declining by US$660 million, and airplanes growing by US$340 million.

Imports of agricultural and industrial raw materials declined 2 percent to US$15.92 billion, with mineral products dropping by US$740 million, and electronic parts and components growing by US$230 million.

Imports of consumer products grew 10.3 percent to US$2.23 billion, with food products growing by US$120 million while sedans grew by US$50 million, equivalent to a 23.6-percent and 19.9-percent increase, respectively. The growth reflected higher household incomes and an improved job market.

Exports to Major Markets

Except for ASEAN-6 countries, exports to all major markets around the globe grew in May. Exports to mainland China, Japan, the U.S. and Europe grew 6.4 percent, 2.6 percent, 1 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively. Exports to ASEAN-6 countries dropped 4.5 percent.

Exports to mainland China (including Hong Kong) totaled US$11.06 billion, which was a record high since August 2011. Exports of electronics products grew by US$910 million, a 24.1-percent increase.

Exports to the U.S. and the eurozone have grown for five consecutive months, indicating a recovery in Western markets, said Tony Phoo, a Taipei-based economist of Standard Chartered. The arrival of new handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets around the globe has aided domestic companies in reaping higher profits in May, Phoo said.

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