UPDATE 1-Taiwan export orders rise for 5th month in Nov
* Nov orders up 0.8 pct y/y vs -1.9 pct poll f'cast
* Europe orders up 9.8 pct y/y; China, U.S. orders fall
* Govt cites improved smartphone sales, notebook orders
By Michael Gold and Emily Chan
TAIPEI, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan's export orders climbed for a fifth straight month in November, defying expectations for a fall bolstered by stronger demand from Japan and Europe for the island's tech goods.
Exports of technology products are pivotal for Taiwan, but flat export growth this year has led to a series of official downgrades in economic growth estimates for 2013 and next year.
Taiwan's export orders grew by 0.8 percent from the same month last year, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Friday, against an expected 1.9 percent drop forecast by 10 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. November's rise compared with a 3.16 percent gain in October.
Export orders typically lead actual exports by two to three months and are a gauge of demand for high-tech goods and components around the world.
"This is a bit better than our expectations. We can see from this data that the recovery in Europe is gaining steam, especially when compared to its performance last year," said Taipei-based Capital Securities economist Hsu Kuo-An.
"The first quarter of next year should continue to see stable growth in orders compared to the first quarter of this year, in which the Europe debt crisis depressed what is already usually a low period seasonally," he said.
Orders from Europe climbed 9.8 percent from a year earlier, and those from Japan rose 6.7 percent.
Orders from China, Taiwan's biggest market, however, saw a 1.3 percent fall, while those from the United States also dropped by 4 percent.
The ministry said that smartphone orders increased by 0.8 percent year-on-year, the best performance on record. Growth was constrained, however, by exports in precision equipment due to weakness in the panel sector.
Japan on Tuesday reported that its exports in November leapt 18.4 percent year-on-year due to a weaker currency.
Taiwan, however, has not fared as well amidst unsteady global growth in consumer demand. Last week, the government reported that exports in November did not increase at all from the same month in 2012, representing a potentially major drag on full-year GDP.
Business sentiment in Asia also took a tumble in the fourth quarter, according to a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey released on Wednesday, indicating that the world's most populous region hasn't yet found its footing in the post-economic crisis era.
Taiwan's large tech firms have issued a mixed bag of earnings reports and forecasts over the last several weeks. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, a major manufacturer of products for Apple Inc, reported November sales spiked 18 percent for the month but were down 0.8 percent year-to-date.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world's largest contract chipmaker, said last week it expects 17-18 percent revenue growth for the company this year and double-digit growth in 2014.
However, Taiwan's tech brands such as HTC Corp and Acer Inc have been hard hit by changing tastes in consumer goods and inability to innovate.
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