UPDATE 1-Taiwan Feb exports post biggest slide in 13 months

Thu Mar 7, 2013 4:19am EST

* Exports -15.8 pct y/y vs median -9.75 pct y/y in Reuters poll

* Total Jan-Feb exports up 2 pct from same period year earlier

* Feb exports to China -21.8 pct y/y

* Feb exports to U.S. -11.9 pct y/y

By Faith Hung and Jeanny Kao

TAIPEI, March 7 (Reuters) - Taiwan's February exports posted their biggest slide in 13 months, down 15.8 percent from a year ago, reflecting fewer working days during the Lunar New Year holidays but also underscoring a still patchy recovery in global demand.

Imports in February also slipped a wider-than-forecast 8.5 percent, the government said on Thursday.

The trade-reliant economy's exports have been supported by strong demand from China and a surge in worldwide spending on high-tech gadgets such as smartphones and tablet PCs.

Still, Taiwan's combined exports in January and February, a more accurate gauge of trends, grew 2 percent from the same period a year earlier, data showed.

"February exports were lower than our forecast due to fewer working days in China. But a 2 percent growth in Jan-Feb exports was not bad," said Aidan Wang, analyst at Yuanta Securities.

"Q2 and Q3 should be very good because of low bases and the economic up cycle. We believe the economy will enter a phase of early expansion in Q2 after recovery."

Data in February was expected to be skewed by the timing of the Lunar New Year when factories shut in Taiwan and mainland China, for up to a week or longer.

The Lunar New Year fell in February this year but in January last year. Some analysts have said that a decline in exports does not necessarily reflect weakening global demand.

Taiwan's annual exports were forecast to have shrunk 9.75 percent in February, and imports by 6.80 percent, according to the median forecasts of 10 economists in a Reuters poll.

The last time Taiwan's exports fell at a sharper pace was January 2012, when they dropped 16.7 percent, according to previously released data.

Shipments to its largest export market China declined 21.8 percent last month, while those to the United States fell 11.9 percent and Europe down 17.2 percent.

Economists expect Taiwan's export trends to mirror the improved outlook in global trade this year but the health of Asian exports depends on a global economic recovery which is still fragile. Asia's exports have recently been mixed.

South Korea's exports fell sharply in February as the yen's slide on Japan's stimulus policies hit Korean manufacturers.

Taiwan's exports orders in January surged 18 percent from a year earlier, providing evidence that global demand for Asian technology goods remains healthy.

Taiwanese firms are the main suppliers to most of the world's top technology brands, including Apple Inc, Dell Inc and Nokia Oyj.

Scott Chen, economist at Sinopac Commercial Bank, said there may be risks in the months ahead.

"The export figures showed in reality actually demand was not as strong, especially that from China and Europe."

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