Taiwan exports post worst slump in 7 yrs, rate cut seen
Reuters - 2 hours 47 minutes ago
By Lee Chyen Yee
TAIPEI, Dec 8 - Taiwan's exports in November fell by an annual 23 percent, the sharpest decline in seven years, boosting expectations the central bank will cut rates sharply this week to try and steer the economy away from a recession.
The figures, which showed sales to China suffering the steepest drop ever, provide further evidence that emerging Asia is increasingly reeling from a global economic slump.
Days earlier South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, also reported the biggest drop in exports in seven years.
November's data marked the third straight month of annual falls in exports. Economist said they expected further declines in coming months as the United States and Europe were in recession and China's growth was slowing.
Leading the downward charge was a 25.3 percent drop in the electronics sector, its worst drop since December 2001, and a worst-ever 38.5 percent skid in exports to China, Taiwan's top trading partner.
"Even though the percentage drops in exports and imports are wider than expected, we're not surprised as the economy is worsening rapidly," said Anita Hsu, an analyst at Masterlink Securities.
"Previously, we expected exports to China would grow after the Beijing Olympics, but as China is also facing a weakening economy, Taiwan's exports won't improve in December," she said, adding that she expected Taiwan's exports to keep falling until around the fourth quarter of next year.
In November, Taiwan's exports totalled $16.8 billion, the finance ministry said on Monday, down from $20.8 billion in October, when exports fell 8.3 percent from a year earlier.
TIPPING INTO RECESSION
Weak domestic consumption and a sharp retreat in oil prices also drove November imports 13.2 percent lower to $15.26 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.5 billion, down 64.6 percent from a year earlier.
Taiwan, a tech powerhouse that is home to the world's contract chip makers, shipped in November 14.2 percent less goods to the United States compared to a year earlier, which was the biggest drop since October 2002.
November's data provided further evidence that Taiwan is tipping into recession. The economy shrank 1 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier and another contraction in the fourth quarter would meet a common definition of a technical recession.
Lin Lee-jen, the finance ministry's chief statistician, said during a news conference the government needed more data to confirm that Taiwan has slipped into recession.
However, some analysts said Taiwan was already in recession according to their own seasonally adjusted quarter-on-quarter GDP calculations.
Most economists therefore expect the central bank to cut the benchmark discount rate by 50 basis points from 2.75 percent now when the monetary policy board meets on Thursday. Some economist said a 75-basis point cut was also possible.
"Taiwan is a small-scale open economy, so it follows that a big lowering of rates won't necessarily bring a big improvement in its economic growth. But at least it can reduce the challenges of a slowing economy," said Cheng Cheng-mount, an economist at Citigroup.
Companies in Taiwan are already following the global trend by freezing hiring and forcing staff to take no-pay leave in efforts to try and cut costs.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd <2330.TW> <TSM.N>, the world's top contract chip maker, and AU Optronics <2409.TW> <AUO.N>, the world's third largest LCD maker, have lowered their four quarter guidance due to the global downturn.
Export orders, a leading indicator for actual shipments, fell 5.6 percent in October, logging their biggest fall in seven years, signalling more weakness in Taiwan's economy going ahead. LINKS > Exports table, please click...[ID:nTP94484] (Additional reporting by Jeanny Kao; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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