May 20, 2020 / 8:57 AM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-Taiwan April export orders unexpectedly rise on 'explosive' telecommuting demand

* April orders +2.3% y/y vs -3% in Reuters poll

* Orders from China +9.2% y/y; U.S. +6.8%

* Ministry expects May orders at between -1.9% and +2% y/y

* Sees uncertainties ahead due to trade tensions

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI, May 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s April export orders unexpectedly grew for a second consecutive month fuelled by strong demand for telecommuting products such as laptops amid the coronavirus outbreak that has kept millions of people around the world at home.

Export orders for Taiwan, seen as a bellwether of global technology demand, rose 2.3% from a year earlier to $38.53 billion, Ministry of Economic Affairs data showed on Wednesday. Economists in a Reuters poll had estimated orders would drop 3% compared with 4.3% growth in March.

The ministry, which has repeatedly warned of a difficult outlook for Taiwan’s orders due to the impact from the coronavirus, said the pandemic had sparked “explosive” demand for products including laptops and tablets, boosting orders for the island’s electronics industry.

“The virus outbreak has led to explosive telecommuting business opportunities. Demand for laptop, tablets and telecommunication products were strong,” Huang Yu-ling, director of the ministry’s statistics agency, told reporters.

However, the ministry warned of uncertainties over the bumpy global recovery from the pandemic and renewed U.S.-China trade tensions that could curb growth momentum in the coming months.

The ministry said it expects May export orders to be in a range of a 1.9% decline and 2% growth from a year earlier.

Taiwan’s manufacturers, a key part of the global supply chain for tech giants such as Apple Inc and Huawei Technologies, have been hit by slowing global demand for electronics as containment measures in many countries force shoppers to stay home.

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker, last week saw its first-quarter profit plunge to its lowest in two decades after the pandemic forced the Taiwanese firm to suspend manufacturing operations in China and hurt demand from customers including Apple.

April orders from the United States rose 6.8% from a year earlier, compared with 9.1% growth in March. Orders from China were up 9.2% versus a 7.5% gain the previous month. European orders climbed 7.6% while those from Japan fell 4.7%.

Taiwan’s government has repeatedly warned of uncertainty for the economy, and is rolling out an economic stimulus package it expects will eventually be worth T$1.05 trillion ($35.01 billion).

Economic growth slowed to its weakest in nearly four years in the first quarter as the pandemic crimped domestic consumption and tourism. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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