(Adds govt and analyst comments, detail)
* Jan exports rise +15.3 pct y/y vs Reuters poll f’cast +17.7 pct
* Exports to U.S. +11.1 pct y/y, to China +21.1 pct
* Ministry says export value was a record high for January
* Feb export outlook less positive due to fewer days - ministry
By Liang-Sa Loh
TAIWAN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s exports missed expectations in January but maintained double-digit growth, marking a strong start to the year for the island’s factories as global tech demand stays buoyant.
In November, the government raised its growth forecast for 2018 due to resilient exports and improving consumption at home.
Taiwan’s factories are an integral part of the global supply-chain for technology giants such as Apple Inc, and the economy is riding a robust exports cycle on strong demand around the world for new smartphones and other gadgets.
January shipments rose for the 16th straight month, up 15.3 percent from a year earlier, data showed on Wednesday, partly helped by a low base as the Lunar New Year holidays fell in January the previous year.
A Reuters poll of analysts had forecast growth of 17.70 percent. Exports grew 14.8 percent in December.
“Benefitting from the global economy’s continued vigour and the rise in international raw material prices, January exports reached $27.38 billion, which is a record high for January,” the finance ministry statistics department said in a statement.
Shipments to China in January rose 21.1 percent, and those to the United States rose 11.1 percent. Exports to Europe and Japan rose 4.3 percent and 14.4 percent, respectively.
Beatrice Tsai, an official with the finance ministry, told a news conference that February’s outlook might not be as positive, due to three fewer working days compared with the previous year.
Taiwan’s annual imports in January jumped 23.3 percent versus a median analyst forecast of 10.70 percent. This was partly due to four more working days in January this year compared with the same month last year, the department said.
Still, imports of electronic components leapt 34.7 percent, crude oil rose 28 percent and chemicals soared 34.7 percent.
Analysts are optimistic Taiwan’s exports can maintain single-digit growth, however, the strength of first quarter growth will likely be weaker than the fourth quarter.
“Due to how Apple’s new iPhone X first quarter sales are estimated to be less than last year’s fourth quarter, this will affect Taiwan’s first quarter export performance,” said Chengyu Liu, an analyst at First Capital Management.
“This year’s first quarter won’t be better than last year’s fourth quarter,” Liu said, adding that in terms of year-on-year growth, the figure will slowly ease to around 10 percent.
Asia’s tech exporters continue to ride a robust semiconductor cycle driven by upgrades in smartphones, industrial robots, cars, and demand for computing machines used to mine cryptocurrencies.
A manufacturing survey pointed to a solid start for Taiwan manufacturers, with headline PMI at 56.9 in January, up from 56.6 in December and the highest since April 2011. (Additional reporting by Roger Tung; Writing by Jessica Macy Yu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)