* Exports in Q1 rise 15.1 pct y/y, biggest growth since 2011
* Q1 exports to China, U.S. up 22 pct and 7.6 pct,
* March imports +19.8 pct, well above f'cast
* Demand for iPhone 8, Trump trade policy in focus
* Q1 surplus with U.S. $596 million, was $1.12 bln a year
(Recasts and adds analyst comments, details)
By Faith Hung and Emily Chan
TAIPEI, April 10 Taiwan's first-quarter exports
surged the most in six years on solid demand from China and the
United States, and the momentum could continue as suppliers
stock components for Apple Inc's coming iPhone 8 and other tech
Taiwan is one of Asia's major exporters, especially of
components of Apple's iPhone and iPad. The island's
export trend is a key gauge of global demand for technology
While the latest trade data is solid, uncertainty about the
trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump remains for
Taiwan's export-reliant economy.
It's unclear if Trump will impose a border tax on imports,
or if the U.S. Treasury might name the island as a currency
manipulator in a report due on April 14. (tmsnrt.rs/2p7aUox)
In the first quarter, Taiwan had a trade surplus of $596
million with the United States, compared with $1.121 billion a
year earlier, the ministry said.
Taiwan's exports in January-March rose 15.1 percent from a
year earlier, the fastest pace for any quarter since
January-March 2011, the Finance Ministry said on Monday.
In March alone, exports climbed 13.2 percent, matching the
forecast in a Reuters poll and taking a streak of annual
increases to six months.
"March exports benefited from continued stable recovery of
the global economy, semiconductor demand staying solid and
lower-based prices for oil and basic metals," the ministry said.
Exports in the January-March quarter to the two biggest
markets, China and the U.S., were up 22 percent and 7.6 percent,
respectively. For March alone, the gains were 16.8 percent and
10.6 percent in March.
Imports in March surged 19.8 percent from a year earlier,
well above the poll forecast for 12.3 percent. It was the
seventh straight gain for a month, and the biggest since April
2011, the ministry said.
"Taiwan has fully caught up with the global economic
recovery, so exports should remain solid in H2," said Rick Lo,
an economist of Fubon Financial Holding.
"And the upcoming iPhone 8 should help Taiwan run ahead of
the competitive pack," he said, adding he expected the central
bank to hold its policy rate steady for the second quarter.
Taiwan manufacturing sector's momentum picked up at the end
of the first quarter, with output, new orders and employment all
rising at faster rates in March than in the previous month,
according to survey firm Markit.
The local currency appreciated 6 percent in the
first quarter, taking a bite out of exporters' revenue, which
will likely prompt the government to revise its 2017 GDP growth
forecast slightly downward, some analysts said.
"The government might have to trim down its forecast a
little bit," said analyst Lucas Lee of Mega Securities in
Taipei. The current forecast stands at 1.92 percent for 2017.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the
world's top contract chip maker, said on Monday the
stronger-than-expected Taiwan dollar cut into its January-March
revenue by T$6 billion.
This would seem to confirm investor concerns that TSMC's
earnings will take a hit from forex losses. TSMC is set to
report its first-quarter earnings results Thursday. The company
said sales were 17.5 percent higher than a year earlier.
(Additional reporting by Jeanny Kao and Loh Liang-sa; Editing
by Richard Borsuk)