March 5, 2020 / 7:58 AM / a month ago

Taiwan February exports seen flat, inflation to cool: Reuters poll

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen stacked up at Keelung port, northern Taiwan, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s exports are expected to be flat in February compared with a decline in January, but this was likely distorted by the Lunar New Year effect and coronavirus outbreak.

Exports were estimated to have been flat from a year earlier and compared with a worse-than-expected 7.6% decline in January, according to the median forecasts of 14 analysts polled by Reuters.

Forecasts ranged widely from a decline of 25.8% to growth of 19.4% amid uncertainties over the coronavirus outbreak that has disrupted global supply chains and led to closure of factories by tech manufacturers such as Apple’s main supplier Foxconn.

Analysts said the improved forecast was partly helped by last year’s Lunar New Year holiday which fell in February, meaning there were fewer working days in the month.

Taiwan is one of Asia’s major exporters, especially of technology goods, and its export trend is a key gauge of global demand for technology gadgets worldwide.

The island’s first-quarter exports will suffer short-term impact from the outbreak, a finance ministry official said last month, who was cautious but not pessimistic about the full-year outlook.

Taiwan, whose largest trading partner is China, cut its estimate for 2020 economic growth to 2.37% last month as the outbreak threatened its export-reliant economy.

Inflation in February was seen easing to 0.3% from a year earlier, the poll found. That was sharply down from 1.85% in January - the highest in 21 months.

Poll compiled by Carol Lee; Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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