* Export orders -14.5 pct y/y vs -5.2 pct in Reuters poll
* Feb orders from Europe -8.9 pct y/y; from U.S. -9.8 pct
* Orders from largest export market China -22.1 pct y/y
By Faith Hung and Jenny Kao
TAIPEI, March 20 Orders for Taiwan's exports in
February shrank 14.5 percent from a year earlier, far worse than
expectations, as orders from its largest market China, Europe
and the United States all fell, but the government said it saw
significant improvement in March.
A rebound in orders this month would signal that Taiwan's
economic recovery was still on track, albeit at a much more
sluggish and uneven pace than earlier anticipated.
"The figures don't indicate Taiwan's recovery is derailing,"
said Aidan Wang, an economist at Yuanta Securities in Taipei.
"The first quarter is traditionally the weakest quarter for
both Taiwan and China. I expect to see a growth jump for Taiwan
in the second to third quarter."
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected February export
orders to contract 5.2 percent, after January's 18 percent
But the government said that combined orders for January and
February would be a more accurate gauge of trends, as one-month
data early in the year is skewed by the timing of the festive
season, which fell in January in 2012 but in February this year.
Total export orders for the months of January and February
rose 1.1 over the same period a year earlier, the Ministry of
Economic Affairs said on Wednesday, noting international demand
for plastics, chemicals and metals was weak during the period.
But it said the value of export orders seen so far in March
was "significantly higher" than February, and were likely to
come in roughly unchanged from year-ago levels in terms of
Global demand for Asian goods from main export markets in
the West has appeared to be slowly improving. U.S. retail sales
rose more than expected in February, offering hope that consumer
spending on smartphones and tech gadgets will remain strong.
On a monthly basis, February orders fell a seasonally
adjusted 4.9 percent from January.
Taiwan's export order data is an indication of the strength
of Asian exports and of global demand for technology products.
They typically lead actual exports by two to three months.
In February, orders from China fell 22.1 percent from a year
earlier, largely due to the long Lunar New Year holidays when
many factories shut, after leaping 28.7 percent in January.
Orders from debt-stricken Europe fell 8.9 percent versus a
rise of 21 percent in January.
Orders from the United States in February fell 9.8 percent
following a rise of 15.5 percent in January.
Taiwanese firms are the main suppliers to most of the
world's top technology brands, including Apple Inc,
Dell and Nokia.
Taiwan's Acer Inc, the world's No. 4 personal
computer company by shipments, forecast this quarter's tablet
shipments will be 2.9 times higher than in the previous quarter,
but said volumes for desktop and notebook PCs will decline.
TSMC, the world's top contract micro chip maker
and Apple Inc supplier Hon Hai Precision are both
adding 5,000 new staff as the technology industry picks up, the
local Economic Daily reported recently.
Taiwan's actual exports in February posted their biggest
slide in 13 months, down 15.8 percent from a year earlier,
reflecting fewer working days in he month but also underscoring
a still patchy recovery in global demand.
Combined Jan-Feb exports rose 2 percent from the same period
a year earlier.
Exports from rival tech heavyweight South Korea also fell
sharply in February as the yen's slide hurt the competitiveness
of Korean manufacturers.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's latest PMI fell to 50.2 in February from
51.5 in January, although total output and new orders both rose
for a third month in a row.