TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s exports rose for an 19th straight month in January, though at a slightly lower rate than forecast, boosted by continued strong tech demand and stockpiling ahead of the Lunar New Year, with strong growth predicted in the first quarter.
Exports last month rose 16.7% from a year earlier to $39.98 billion, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday.
A Reuters poll of analysts had forecast a rise of 17.2% for the month, compared with a 23.4% increase in December.
Exports rose 29.4% in 2021 to a record high, supported by robust global demand for the island’s tech products from semiconductors to telecommunications equipment.
The ministry attributed the January growth to strong demand for tech exports such as electronic components as well as chips, a shortage of which has crippled car plants globally and is affecting consumer electronics.
Exports were also boosted by stockpiling ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in the first week of February, it added.
Exports of electronics components rose 19.7% in January to reach $15.91 billion, with semiconductor exports growing 20.9% and telecommunication and audio-visual products gaining 14.3% from a year earlier.
Many companies expect chip shortages to last at least for the rest of the year, which will continue to fill Taiwanese semiconductor firms’ order books.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) on Thursday reported a 35.8% on-year rise in net revenues for January to T$172.18 billion ($6.19 billion).
Firms such as TSMC are major suppliers to Apple Inc and other global tech giants, as well as providers of chips for auto companies and lower-end consumer electronics.
The finance ministry warned of risks ahead, including uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic as well as supply chain bottlenecks and China-U.S. frictions.
But it said Taiwan’s first quarter exports could maintain double-digit growth, thanks to sustained global demand for tech products like chips along with a steady improvement in global economic fundamentals.
January exports to China, Taiwan’s largest trading partner, grew an annual 5.7% to $15.70 billion, compared with a 16.2% on-year rise in December, while exports to the United States jumped 34.2%, faster than the 29% rise recorded the previous month.
Imports leapt 24.9%, in line with economists’ expectations of a 25% rise, after an increase of 28.1% in December.
Taiwan could see February exports increase in the range of 13% to 15% from a year earlier, the ministry said.
($1 = 27.8230 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by Roger Tung and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)