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Taiwan's July exports unexpectedly rise, but outlook uncertain

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s exports surprisingly rose in July after four months of falls, but the government warned of uncertainties as global coronavirus cases spike and U.S.-China tensions deepen.

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Exports rose 0.4% from a year earlier to $28.2 billion in July, the finance ministry said on Friday. A Reuters poll had forecast an annual drop of 0.22%. In June, exports slipped 3.8%

The ministry said the “stay-at-home economy”, where millions of people worked from home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, boosted exports of telecommuting products such as laptops which jumped 18.5% from a year earlier to a record high.

Beatrice Tsai, head of the ministry’s statistics department, expected exports in the second half to decline slightly from a year earlier, citing the impact from the pandemic.

Uncertainties remain for exports in the second half as strong technology demand for products such as semiconductors could be offset by the pandemic and rising geopolitical tensions, the ministry said.

Taiwan’s July imports fell 6.8% against economists’ expectations for a 3.1% decline.

Tech powerhouse Taiwan, whose largest trading partner is China, could see August exports come in within a range of -2.5% to -0.5% on the year, Tsai said.

In China, exports also confounded expectations by rising at the fastest pace in seven months in July.

While Taiwan has had relatively fewer coronavirus infections and managed to avoid a lockdown of its economy, the government has repeatedly warned of economic uncertainties and is rolling out a stimulus package worth T$1.05 trillion ($35.7 billion).

The island’s economy recorded its deepest contraction in nearly 11 years in the second quarter, as the pandemic dampened tourism although global demand for its tech exports helped counter the slowdown.

The economy contracted 0.73% in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, preliminary data showed last week, down from the first quarter’s 1.59% expansion.

Reporting by Yimou Lee, Ben Blanchard and Liang-sa Loh; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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