Taiwan exports fall for first time in two years

A container truck drives along a pier at Taiwan's busy northern Keelung harbour in 2011. Taiwan said Tuesday that exports in January fell for the first time in more than two years due to weakening demand for the island's signature electronics and telecom products

Taiwan said Tuesday that exports in January fell for the first time in more than two years due to weakening demand for the island's signature electronics and telecom products. Shipments fell 16.8 percent year-on-year to $21.08 billion -- the first contraction since a 4.6 percent decline in October 2009 -- and dropped 12.0 percent from December, according to the finance ministry. Exports of information and telecom products shed 26.7 percent from a year earlier while electronics fell 23.2 percent year-on-year, the ministry said in a statement. Exports to the island's major markets, including China, the United States, and Japan, all shrank from last year, with the biggest decline of 25.9 percent in shipments to China and Hong Kong to $7.57 billion. Taiwan's trade-dependent economy has shown signs of weakness in recent months due to weakening demand from China, the United States, and debt-ridden Europe. The government last week announced that economic growth was expected to have slowed sharply to 1.90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from a year earlier amid the slowing global economy. The preliminary figure from the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics was nearly half its earlier forecast of 3.69 percent growth for the October-December period. The agency also lowered its 2011 full-year growth forecast to 4.03 percent from 4.51 percent and the 2012 forecast to 3.91 percent from 4.19 percent.