* Export orders grow 3.2 pct y/y, market had expected 0 pct
* US sales remain strong, China demand slows, EU falls again
* May indicate economy has bottomed but no sharp rebound
By Jeanny Kao and Faith Hung
TAIPEI, Nov 20 Taiwan's export orders grew by a
stronger-than-expected 3.2 percent in October as U.S. retailers
stocked up on popular electronic gadgets for the Christmas
shopping season, offering more hope that the trade-reliant Asian
economy may be slowly stabilising.
The median of forecasts of a Reuters poll of 10 economists
showed no growth had been expected in orders last month compared
with the same period last year, following a 1.9 percent
expansion in September.
Still, analysts said any economic recovery may be sluggish,
noting that orders in autumn were traditionally strong before
falling off sharply after the year-end holidays, and stressing
that the global outlook for 2013 remained subdued.
"The figure was better than expected mainly because of
strong orders from the U.S. for Christmas, be they new products
from Apple or HTC," said Forrest Chen, analyst at Ta Chong Bank
"But I have doubts whether the growth momentum will last
because we saw sales growth in the U.S. chain stores has slowed
in the first half of November. It is for sure that Taiwan's
export orders have bottomed but the strength of the rebound is
not strong," he said.
Buoyed by demand for the latest smartphones and tablet PCs
and the launch of Windows 8, orders from the United States rose
9.3 percent on-year to a monthly record of US$97.1 billion, and
at a slightly stronger pace than in September, according to
figures released by economics affairs ministry on Tuesday
Those from Taiwan's top customer China rose 1.2 percent,
weaker than September's 4.8 percent.
Orders from Europe continued to fall, declining 2.8 percent,
though the rate of decline was not as pronounced as September's
The government said it expected the order value in November
to rise from October.
Taiwan's export orders are a leading indicator of global
demand for Asia's exports and for hi-tech gadgets, and typically
lead actual exports by two to three months.
MIXED SIGNALS ON RECOVERY
Order growth in September had spurred hopes that the economy
was stabilising and set to regain momentum later in the year.
But a drop in shipments by smartphone maker HTC Corp
had seemed to flag weaker orders in the fourth
quarter. HTC's shipments make up about 7 percent of Taiwan's
Prior to September, orders had declined for six straight
months as demand faltered in Europe, the United States and
China. Some signs of improvement have been seen in the U.S.
and China more recently, but the euro zone has slipped into its
second recession since 2009 with no rebound in sight.
Actual exports in October fell 1.9 percent year-on-year,
surprising economists who had expected a modest expansion
heading into the year-end shopping season.
Taiwanese firms are the main makers of the products of most
of the world's top tech brands, including Apple Inc,
Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia. The
heavy reliance on electronics exports makes the island's economy
especially vulnerable to swings in external demand.
Adding to the uncertainty, a recent private purchasing
managers survey showed new export orders continued to fall in
October, though at a slower rate..
The economy of China, the top destination for Taiwan's
exports, grew 7.4 percent in the July-September quarter from a
year earlier, its slowest rate of growth in three years.
China's October data, however, showed some signs that its
economy had turned the corner and a recovery was slowly gaining
"As year-end inventory stocking ended around October, fourth
quarter and full-year figures will not be too different from
this one. But as there are still some new launches in the
pipeline, such as Windows 8 products, if they sell well, we may
see better growth," said Andrew Tsai, analyst at KGI Securities.
Taiwan's government cut its 2012 GDP forecast for the ninth
time in just over an year in October to 1.02 percent, due in
large part to weak exports.
Other export-reliant Asian economies are also struggling.
Japan's economy shrank in the third quarter and appears
headed for recession as exports tumble and domestic consumption
But South Korean exports in October rose 1.1 percent from a
year earlier, revised data showed this week, the first annual
gain in four months, while Philippine exports in September grew
22.8 percent, their fastest rate in nearly two years, driven by
a rebound in electronics.