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Taiwan March exports seen down almost 7% year-on-year on virus impact: Reuters poll

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s exports are expected to have decreased 6.74% in March compared with a year earlier, while they had seen a sharp increase in the previous month, due to the impact of the coronavirus, according to a median forecast of 12 analysts polled by Reuters.

Taiwan is one of Asia’s major exporters, especially of technology goods, and its export trend is a key gauge of global demand for technology gadgets worldwide.

Forecasts ranged widely from a decline of 20% to growth of 1.8% amid uncertainties over the coronavirus outbreak that has disrupted global supply chains and led to closure of factories by tech manufacturers including Apple’s main supplier, Foxconn.

Taiwan’s exports unexpectedly leapt 24.9% in February from a year earlier, on strong sales of chips and telecommunication equipment, and off a low base, as the traditional week-long Lunar New Year holiday fell in February last year, meaning there were fewer working days.

But the government has repeatedly warned of uncertainty for the trade outlook due to the pandemic, and said last month that Taiwan’s March exports were expected to decline 2% to 5% compared with the year-ago period.

The government is rolling out an economic stimulus package that it expects to eventually be worth T$1.05 trillion ($34.71 billion).

The central bank in Taiwan, whose largest trading partner is China, last month cut its full-year growth outlook to 1.92% from a December forecast of 2.57%, though some banks expect the economy to shrink in 2020.

Inflation in March was seen at 0.13% from a year earlier, the poll found, sharply down from 1.85% in January – the highest in 21 months.

($1 = 30.2490 Taiwan dollars)

(Poll compiled by Carol Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)