Taiwan Growth Slows as Trade Tensions Prompt Consumer Caution

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan’s export-driven economy is cooling as escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China weigh on local consumers.

The expansion slowed to 2.3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to Taiwan’s statistics bureau, falling below 3 percent growth for the first time since the second quarter of 2017. That missed the average estimate of 2.5 percent in a Bloomberg survey of 19 economists.

Taiwan’s Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics attributed the slowdown to lower-than-expected consumer spending. And while overseas orders for Taiwan’s chemical and mineral products remained strong in the third quarter, they weren’t sufficient to overcome concerns about growing tensions between Taiwan’s two biggest trading partners. The White House is said to be ready to place tariffs on all remaining Chinese exports to the U.S.

The trade war “will start to impact the Asia supply chain of which Taiwan has played a pivotal role,” Raymond Yeung, chief greater China economist for Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Hong Kong, said via instant message before the data was released Wednesday. “The economic outlook will prompt the central bank to stay put for the rest of this year.”

Taiwan’s central bank maintained its benchmark interest rate at 1.375 percent for a ninth straight quarter last month, signaling uncertainty and concerns of collateral damage from the trade tensions.

“Our outlook for Taiwan’s economy is for stable growth,” said Chen Ya-mei, from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics. “It looks like the only impact the trade war has had so far is on confidence. Consumers are more conservative than they were. We are still evaluating what the actual economic impact of the trade war is.”

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