Taiwan export orders fall for first time in 2 years, hurt by China lockdowns, global weakness

Trucks drive near containers at Keelung port, northern Taiwan, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang
  • April export orders -5.5% y/y vs +3.8% poll forecast
  • Export orders from China -16.9% y/y vs +9.1% in March
  • Ministry sees May orders between -1.1% and +1.7% y/y

TAIPEI, May 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan's export orders -- a bellwether for global technology demand -- fell for the first time in 25 months in April, taking a larger-than-expected hit from COVID lockdowns in China and broader global supply chain disruptions.

Export orders unexpectedly fell 5.5% from a year earlier to $51.9 billion last month, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Friday.

The decline was the first in more than two years, since the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the world in 2020, and up-ended analysts' forecasts for 8.3% growth.

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Orders for telecommunications products dropped 21.5% on year, mainly due to government measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in China, the ministry said.

Orders for electronic products edged up 4.3%, with China's lockdowns "deepening the supply and demand imbalance", the ministry said.

Growth in the past two years or so had been supported by booming tech demand fuelled by the work and study from home trend during the COVID pandemic, as well as a global semiconductor shortage that has filled Taiwanese chip makers' order books.

The ministry said it expects export orders in May to be in a range of a fall of 1.1% and an expansion of 1.7% from a year earlier.

Huang Yu-ling, director of the ministry's statistics agency, said orders could return to growth in June or July, depending on how quickly China can restore output levels and resolve supply chain bottlenecks.

"The lockdown has had a much bigger impact than we expected," she said.

In March, export orders rose 16.8% from a year earlier to $62.69 billion, the highest figure for the month on record.

April orders from China fell 16.9%, compared with an increase of 9.1% in the previous month, while orders from the United States in April dropped 0.2% from a year earlier, compared with the 18.9% growth logged in March.

Shares of California-based Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) tumbled to an 18-month low on Thursday after the company warned of persisting shortages in components, worrying Wall Street on how exports could suffer due to China's COVID restrictions and the Ukraine crisis. read more

Export orders from Europe shrank 17%, compared with growth of 20.1% in March, while those from Japan fell 11.3%.

The ministry said it is closely watching possible further impacts from global supply chain disruptions and rising inflation, both of which could get worse due to the war in Ukraine and the lockdowns in China.

Dozens of Chinese cities were under full or partial COVID lockdowns in April and May, slashing demand and paralysing supply chains. Shanghai is just beginning to ease restrictions and analysts warn it could take weeks or even months for conditions to stabilise.

Roughly half of Taiwanese companies that had previously suspended work in China due to COVID control measures have resumed production as curbs ease, the island's economy minister said on Thursday. read more

Taiwanese companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) are major suppliers to Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and other global tech firms.

Kevin Wang, an analyst at Taishin investment advisory company, said the impact from China's lockdowns could continue for the next few months.

"The uncertainties from lockdowns in China will still hurt the momentum of the orders and impact the global supply chain. It is hard not to be hit by them."

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Reporting by Jeanny Kao, Yimou Lee, Emily Chan and Taipei newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill

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