(Adds details, comments)
* Jan exports -13 pct y/y vs -13.6 pct in poll
* Jan exports to U.S. -5.8 pct y/y; China -19.3 pct
* Jan exports to Europe +3.4 pct y/y; Japan -1.8 pct
By Emily Chan and Jeanny Kao
TAIPEI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s exports in January slid for the 12th month running, hit by a slump in shipments to China and raising the risk of further downgrades to the island’s economic growth outlook this year.
The government will issue latest growth forecasts for 2016 on Wednesday that could suggest a bumpy ride ahead for the trade-reliant economy, which barely emerged from recession in the fourth quarter as its tech exports faltered. Growth in 2015 was the weakest since the global financial crisis.
Slackening global demand and cooling growth in Asia’s locomotive China continues to suck the oxygen out of Taiwan’s important tech sector, with little signs yet of a rebound.
January exports fell 13.0 percent from a year earlier to $22.2 billion, its lowest value in almost a year. The decline was better than December’s 13.9 percent drop and a Reuters poll forecast for a 13.6 percent fall in January.
“Exports will remain in the red for the first half of this year,” said Andrew Tsai, economist with KGI Securities Investment Advisory, who expects Taiwan’s central bank to cut policy rates at its quarterly meeting in March and June.
The contraction in Taiwan’s exports comes as China’s own exports shrank much faster than expected in January and could be a prelude of worse to come.
“February exports are likely to continue to contract,” said Yeh Maan-tzwu, the statistics director for the finance ministry, which released the data on Tuesday.
But economists said January-February figures tend to be distorted by the effects of the Lunar New Year holiday. The festival began on Feb. 8 this year, prompting some companies to rush goods out ahead of the weeklong holiday.
CHINA DEMAND SLUMPS
Tsai of KGI said China’s efforts to produce more of its own components will affect Taiwan’s shipments.
“Our exports to China were poor, partly because they are looking for import substitution, but also due to the overall economic slowdown,” he said.
In January, Taiwan’s exports to China sank the most by 19.3 percent from a year earlier, worsening from December’s 16.4 percent drop.
Meanwhile, export performance to other key markets improved.
Shipments bound for the United States fell 5.8 percent on year last month and those headed to Japan slid 1.8 percent, both narrowing losses posted in December. The island’s exports to Europe swung to 3.4 percent growth from a fall in December.
The central bank cut its policy discount rate at each of its two previous quarterly policy meetings and, having twice guided market rates lower in the first quarter so far, expectations are up for another cut in March when it next meets.