TAIPEI: The Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK) on Wednesday raised its forecast for the local manufacturing sector’s 2018 output, citing the continued global economic recovery. The IEK, which is under the government-sponsored Industrial Technology Research Institute, projected a 3.49 percent annual growth of the local manufacturing sector’s production value to NT$18.93 trillion (US$642 billion) in 2018. Raising its October forecast by 0.24 percentage points, the IEK said demand at home and abroad is expected to remain solid, which will prompt Taiwanese manufacturers, most of which are exports-oriented firms, to boost their production. The chemical industry is expected to generate about NT$4.68 trillion in production value in 2018, rising 4.88 percent from a year earlier, the highest growth among the major industries in Taiwan, according to the IEK. The research group said the chemical industry will continue to benefit from strong global demand and a decline in inventories, while a spike in international crude oil prices is likely to boost chemical product prices and eventually hike the sector’s production value. According to the IEK, the information/electronics industry is expected to post NT$6.65 trillion in output in 2018, an annual increase of 3.96 percent, as the local high-tech industry continues to ride on the booming global market. Meanwhile, the production value of the local metal/electrical industry is expected to hit NT$5.28 trillion in 2018, growing 2.42 percent from a year earlier as inventories drop amid strong demand, the IEK said. In the local auto/auto component industry, the IEK said, the 2018 output is expected to increase 1.2 percent to 2.1 percent, remaining above the NT$600 billion mark. In 2017, the production value was NT$610.9 billion, up 4.6 percent from 2016, according to the IEK. It said car sales in Taiwan are expected to grow in 2018 as vendors’ efforts to launch new models will spur buying interest, while rising demand for automation in the global car industry is likely to boost exports of Taiwan-made auto parts.