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Taiwan April export orders unexpectedly rise on 'explosive' telecommuting demand

[TAIPEI] 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 per cent from a year earlier to US$38.53 billion, Ministry of Economic Affairs data showed on Wednesday. Economists in a Reuters poll had estimated orders would drop 3 per cent compared with 4.3 per cent 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 US-China trade tensions that could curb growth momentum in the coming months.

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

Taiwan's manufacturers, a key part of the global supply chain for tech giants such as Apple 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 per cent from a year earlier, compared with 9.1 per cent growth in March. Orders from China were up 9.2 per cent versus a 7.5 per cent gain the previous month. European orders climbed 7.6 per cent while those from Japan fell 4.7 per cent.

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 (S$49.61 billion).

Economic growth slowed to its weakest in nearly four years in the first quarter as the pandemic crimped domestic consumption and tourism.


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