By Roger Tung
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's export orders growth beat forecasts in April, as the island's technology sector recovered from a weak first quarter, with goods such as auto electronics driving growth although communications products remained a soft patch.
Orders for the trade-reliant economy rose 9.8 percent to $39.1 billion from the same period a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Monday. That was stronger than more modest growth of 3.1 percent in March and higher than the median forecast of 8.85 percent growth for April in a Reuters poll.
From the previous month, export orders declined 7.7 percent.
The overall on-year growth was driven by a 12.1 percent increase in electronics orders and an 18.6 percent increase in machinery orders. Information and communications products, which includes smartphones and PCs, declined 0.3 percent.
The ministry said in a statement orders for information and communications products were hit by "the weak season for smartphones and computers, and weak market demand".
However, economists said strong growth in traditional industries outside of technology offset some of the weakness in the information and communications products.
"If you look at the breakdown, the electronics exports in addition to the traditional export orders, for example base metals and plastic products and machinery, all grew by double digits," said Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ in Hong Kong.
"I think that helped to offset weakness in the ICT sector which still contracted for the third consecutive month," she said.
Looking to May, the ministry said it projects the on-month change in value of export orders to range between a 0.3 percent contraction to 2.3 percent growth.
Orders from the United States, where Apple Inc is a major customer for major Taiwanese technology component makers, rose 9.6 percent in April from a year earlier.
Orders from China, the island's biggest trading partner, rose 13.6 percent last month compared with the same period a year ago.
April orders from the European Union and Japan climbed 4.9 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
The ministry expects the softness in smartphone demand to be mitigated by firmer growth in products such as for the internet of things, auto electronics and artificial intelligence.
(Reporting by Roger Tung; Writing by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Sam Holmes)