TAIPEI - Taiwan's exports rose in February for the eighth month in a row, slightly slower than expected but benefiting from continued strong demand for chips to power technology for the work-from-home COVID-19 pandemic boom. Exports rose 9.7% from a year earlier to $27.79 billionin February, the Ministry of Finance said on Tuesday, affected by the week-long Lunar New Year holiday that occurred last month. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a rise of 10.5% for February, compared with a 36.8% jump in January. The ministry attributed the growth to "brisk" demand for chips and panels, with laptops logging an annual expansion of 68.7% last month, as millions of people are forced to work and study remotely on smartphones, tablets and other technology. 5G and auto chip demand also helped drive February exports, it added. Car companies have been scrambling for chips, many of which are made in Taiwan. Apple Inc, for which firms such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd are major suppliers, launched its next-generation iPhone 12 with faster 5G connectivity in September. The ministry expected exports to steadily expand in the first and second quarters, helped by Taiwan's semiconductor prowess, though it warned of uncertainly from global efforts to contain the pandemic. Exports to China, Taiwan's largest trading partner, jumped an annual 14.8% to $11.26 billion, while exports to the United States also grew 14.8% on year. Taiwan's government last month revised up its outlook for 2021, predicting the economy will grow at its fastest pace in seven years, seeing gross domestic product (GDP) expanding 4.64% on a boom in exports driven by tech demand. February imports edged up 5.7%, against economists' expectations for 12.2% rise and a jump of 29.9% in January. Taiwan could see March exports rise in the range of 15% to 20% year on year, the ministry said. In China, February exports grew at a record pace from a year earlier when COVID-19 battered the world's second-biggest economy. REUTERS
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