Asian Data Signal Slowdown Easing From Korea to Taiwan: Economy

Taiwan Economy Recovers as Exports Improve on Chinese Demand
Pedestrians walk past stores in the shopping district of Ximending in Taipei, Taiwan. Signs that China’s growth is recovering have brightened the outlook for the region’s exports and boosted currencies. Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

The worst of the declines in Asia-Pacific economies may be moderating, as Taiwan resumed growth last quarter, South Korean production climbed for the first time in four months and Singapore’s jobless rate fell.

Gross domestic product in Taiwan grew 1.02 percent from a year earlier, after a 0.18 percent decline the previous quarter, a report showed today. South Korea’s industrial output rose 0.8 percent last month from August on stronger car and electronics sales, while Singapore’s unemployment rate eased to 1.9 percent, the lowest since the first quarter of 2011.

China’s economy has shown signs of rebounding this quarter, boosting the outlook for the region’s exports. While Asian stocks rose today, the recovery in growth may be constrained by Japan’s persistent slump and limited expansions in the U.S. and Europe, sustaining pressure for policy stimulus in some Asia-Pacific countries.

“We may be seeing a bottoming in Asia but there won’t be a strong recovery in the short term, given the global environment,” said Edward Lee, a Singapore-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc. “There are still a lot of potholes in the world economy which will clearly have an impact on Asia. In some places, we are still calling for more monetary policy easing,” including South Korea and Thailand, he said.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.6 percent at 12:06 p.m. Tokyo time, trimming a monthly loss. South Korea’s won touched a 13-month high while the Australian and New Zealand dollars rose after data showed better-than-expected building approvals in September for both countries. The Taiwan dollar gained 0.2 percent against the U.S. currency as of 11:21 a.m. in Taipei.

Australian Homes

Australian home-building approvals surged for a second straight month in September, a sign housing demand is accelerating after the central bank cut interest rates. The number of permits granted to build or renovate houses and apartments gained 7.8 percent from August, a report showed today. New Zealand home-building approvals rose last month to the highest level in more than four years.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japanese wages were unchanged for a second month in September, a report showed today. Thailand’s current-account surplus was $1.77 billion in September, the largest since July 2011, a central bank statement showed today.

Euro-area unemployment may have climbed to a record 11.5 percent in September, according to the median estimate of a survey of 24 economists ahead of a release today. Italy and the euro region will announce October inflation data. U.S. mortgage applications for the week through Oct. 26 will be released, while Canada reports August gross domestic product data.

‘Bottomed Out’

South Korea’s growth momentum is weakening, the Bank of Korea said in a financial stability report to parliament released today. Weak consumer and investor confidence may delay a recovery, while household and corporate-sector credit risk may increase due to rising home debt and a slowing economy, it said.

Thailand’s central bank cited an uncertain global economic outlook and the threat to regional economies from a worldwide slowdown in minutes released today of its Oct. 17 meeting, when it unexpectedly cut its benchmark interest rate.

Taiwan’s expansion in the third quarter was less than the 1.5 percent median estimate of 20 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Elevated food prices and the highest jobless rate in almost a year have damped domestic demand, prompting officials today to cut growth forecasts for this year and next.

“The economy has improved on a quarter-on-quarter basis so it’s fair to say it has bottomed out,” said Ma Tieying, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore. “The disappointment is from private consumption. For meaningful improvement we will need to see a substantial rise in exports.”

Inflation Concern

Taiwan’s currency has gained 2.5 percent in the past three months, one of the best performers among the 11 most-widely traded Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The benchmark Taiex Index slipped 0.4 percent at 11:27 a.m.

Taiwan cut its 2012 growth estimate to 1.05 percent from 1.66 percent, and said the economy may expand 3.09 percent in 2013, less than a previous prediction of 3.67 percent. Exports will contract 2.5 percent this year, more than an earlier forecast of 1.72 percent, the statistics bureau said.

“The economy seems to have troughed,” Raymond Yeung, a Hong Kong-based senior economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., said before the release. “Both exports and industrial production surprised on the upside in September and tourism from the mainland continued to grow strongly.”

Some Asian officials have restrained their stimulus efforts as global expansion slowed, with some refraining from interest-rate cuts to preserve firepower should Europe’s debt crisis worsen, and others including Singapore and Hong Kong taking measures to prevent asset-price bubbles.

Improving Demand

Taiwan’s monetary policy is “adequately loose,” Governor Perng Fai-Nan said last month after holding the benchmark rate for a fifth meeting to damp inflation.

Shipments to China, the island’s largest trading partner, rose 11.9 percent in September from a year earlier. Export orders, an indicator of sales in the next one to three months, climbed for the first time in seven months.

Chimei Innolux Corp., the largest liquid-crystal display maker, this week reported a narrower-than-expected third-quarter loss and forecast improving demand.

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