(Adds details, comments)
* March export orders +3.1 pct y/y vs +6.45 pct f’cast
* U.S. March orders +6.5 pct, China +6.8 pct
By Emily Chan and Jeanny Kao
TAIPEI, April 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s export orders rebounded in March but at a slower-than-expected pace, in early signs of weakening global demand even as manufacturers worry about growing trade protectionism.
Orders for the trade-reliant economy rose 3.1 percent to $10.8 billion last month, a record value for March, the economics ministry said on Friday, after contracting the previous month as factories shut for the Lunar New Year holiday.
That compared with February’s 3.8 percent decline and a forecast of 6.45 percent growth in a Reuters poll.
For the first three months combined, orders totalled $117.9 billion, rising 6.4 percent from a year earlier.
The bounce was helped by solid orders from electronics products, as well as record order value from basic metals and machineries.
“We expect export orders in the second quarter to grow around 3-4 percent on year, because economic recovery in most countries is already peaking,” said Carl Liu, analyst at KGI investment advisory company, adding some countries were reducing tax and raising public expenditure to stimulate their economies.
“Weak demand limits the growth rate of export orders. We expect growth in the second half to be around 5-7 percent,” he said.
“If trade tension between the U.S. and China intensify, though unlikely, it would further dampen the already weakening economy.”
Export orders in Taiwan, a key player in the global technology supply chain, are seen as a leading indicator of actual shipments two to three months ahead and a gauge of demand for Asia’s high-tech gadgets.
Orders from the United States, where Apple Inc is a major customer for major Taiwanese technology component makers, rose 6.5 percent in March from a year earlier and were up 5.2 percent for the January-March period.
Orders from China, the island’s biggest trading partner, rose 6.8 percent last month and jumped 11.6 percent in the first quarter.
March orders from the European Union climbed 1.9 percent and rose 6.4 percent from Japan.
The economics ministry expects export orders in April to fall between 9.2 percent and 11.5 percent from March to about $37.5 billion to $38.5 billion.
“Looking forward, a slowdown in demand in mobile devices limits the growth momentum of communication products, but emerging applications such as high-performance computing, automobile electronics and artificial intelligence continue to expand, it could help orders for electronic products.”
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd , the world’s largest contract chipmaker, trimmed its full-year revenue target on Thursday on softer demand for smartphones, sending its shares and other Apple Inc supplier stocks tumbling on Friday. (Reporting by Emily Chan and Jeanny Kao; Writing by Clare Jim; Editing by Jacqueine Wong)