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Taiwan's strong Oct export orders set stage for record 2017

[TAIPEI] Taiwan's export order growth was higher than expected in October, aided by global demand for tech gadgets including Apple's new smartphones, prompting the government to forecast that orders will likely hit a record high this year.

Buoyant exports have raised confidence the government can easily meet its upwardly revised 2017 economic growth forecast of 2.15 per cent, giving the central bank room to keep interest rates steady.

October export orders rose 9.2 per cent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Monday, compared with 7.95 per cent forecast in a Reuters poll and 6.9 per cent in September.

The ministry also projected that annual export order growth in November would be in the range of 7.7-10 per cent, with order value for 2017 to reach a record high of between US$489.5 billion and US$492.5 billion.

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It said that demand for information communication devices, which jumped 9.8 per cent year-on-year, was buoyed by the launch of new mobile and wearable devices.

"The launching of mobile and wearable devices by international brands onto the market, coupled with expanding demand for network communication products and servers, has driven an increase in related industries' supply chain and assembly orders," the ministry said.

Kevin Wang, an analyst at Taishin Investment advisory company, said the data pointed to a good start for the fourth quarter.

"October export orders performed slightly better than expected. The annual increase of 9.8 per cent in information communication products was not bad, which may reflect rising demand for the iPhone X," Mr Wang said.

Apple's highly anticipated iPhone X went on sale on Nov 3.

Taiwan's exports have seen robust growth this year, especially in September, when exports totalled US$28.9 billion, which the ministry said was a "new historical high". The island's resilient export performance indicates continued strength for Asian exporters who have benefitted from global demand for new smartphone models and memory chips.

Export orders from China rose 13.2 per cent from a year earlier, compared with 14.6 per cent in September, and were up 6.5 per cent from the United States, versus 2.2 per cent previously.

Taiwan's orders are a leading indicator of demand for Asia's exports and for hi-tech gadgets, and typically lead actual exports by two to three months.