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TAIPEI - Taiwan's exports rose for a ninth straight month in March, and far exceeded expectations, as global demand for microchips and hi-tech gadgets remained strong in the work-from-home COVID-19 pandemic boom.
Exports rose 27.1% from a year earlier to $35.89 billion in March, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday, the highest monthly figure on record.
Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a rise of 17.4% for March, compared with a 9.7% increase in February.
The ministry attributed the growth to a return of economic confidence as countries around the world roll out vaccination programmes, and to continued strong demand for tech products to support remote working and the "home economy".
Firms such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) are major suppliers to Apple Inc and other global tech giants, as well as providers of key chips for auto companies and lower-end consumer electronics.
Beatrice Tsai, head of the ministry's statistics department, told reporters that TSMC, the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, would be running at full capacity until the end of next year.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It said this month it plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity at its plants.
The move comes as global companies reel from a shortage of semiconductor chips that initially forced automakers to cut production, but is now hurting some makers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances amid a pandemic-fuelled rise in demand.
Looking ahead, the ministry said it saw uncertainly from Taiwan's ongoing drought, but that the island's prowess in semiconductors would help propel exports and that it expected double-digit growth to continue in the second quarter.
Exports to China, Taiwan's largest trading partner, jumped an annual 35.5% to $15.91 billion, while exports to the United States grew 34.7% on year.
Taiwan's government in January revised up its economic outlook for 2021, predicting activity will grow at its fastest pace in seven years. It sees gross domestic product (GDP) expanding 4.64% thanks to the export boom.
March imports soared 27%, against economists' expectations for a 12.1% rise and a small increase of 5.7% in February.
Taiwan could see April exports increase in the range of 20% to 27% year on year, the ministry added. REUTERS