Taiwan’s exports grew faster than even the most bullish economist forecast last month, fueled by ongoing global demand for semiconductors.
Exports rose 29.2% in September from a year earlier to a record $39.7 billion, according to a statement from Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance on Friday. That compares to a median estimate of 25% in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Imports surged 40.4% to $33.2 billion, the second highest reading on record. The trade balance widened to $6.5 billion, it’s highest since October last year.
Taiwan’s overseas shipments have been on a tear ever since rebounding from a dip during the initial months of the global Covid-19 outbreak last year. September’s figures benefited from resurgent worldwide demand, especially for electronic devices and new technologies such as 5G, according to the ministry’s statement. The decision by several major chipmakers to raise prices in recent months also bolstered figures.
The growth was underpinned by strong figures from the island’s largest company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Earlier Friday it reported a record NT$414.7 billion ($14.8 billion) in quarterly sales for the three months through September, bolstered by global demand for computer chips amid an ongoing shortage in the silicon that power everything from cars to smartphones.
The company’s September sales rose 20% versus a year ago to NT$152.7 billion.
But economists are increasingly warning that Taiwan’s streak of stellar export growth may be about to end.
“Monthly exports are expected to gradually decrease in the next quarter and into the start of next year as well.” Woods Chen, chief economist at Yuanta Securities Invest Consulting, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “It is unlikely that export growth will go back to how it was in the third quarter.”
Chen estimated exports to slow to 17% in the fourth quarter and 6% in the first quarter of 2022.
Exports are likely to continue expanding in the final quarter of 2021, according to the finance ministry’s statement, fueled mainly by the launch of new consumer electronics products, infrastructure projects in major countries, and the overall expansion of the global economy.
Shipments will likely grow by between 21% and 25% in October, the finance ministry’s Beatrice Tsai said in a briefing in Taipei Friday.
“I expect a moderation in export growth in the fourth quarter as there are some early signs of softening demand for consumer electronic products,” Michelle Lam, an economist at Societe General SA, wrote via message Friday. “However, Taiwan’s leading position in foundry and the continued semiconductor shortage means it will be manageable.”