UPDATE 1-Taiwan February export orders surge as work-from-home trend drives tech demand

(Recasts, adds details)

* Feb orders +48.5% y/y vs +45.1% in Reuters poll

* Orders from China +48.6% y/y; U.S. +50.2% y/y

* Ministry sees March orders rising between 35.4% and 39.1% y/y

* Says outlook ‘optimistic’ thanks to strong tech demand

TAIPEI, March 22 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s February export orders rose more than expected for the 12th month in a row to a record high, boosted by sustained demand for telecommuting products during strict lockdowns worldwide to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

New smartphone launches by brands such as Apple Inc also fuelled demand.

Taiwan’s export orders, a bellwether of global technology demand, jumped 48.5% from a year earlier to $42.59 billion in February, the highest by value for the month, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Monday.

That exceeded the median forecast of 45.1% in a Reuters poll.

The ministry also attributed February’s strong performance to a lower base for comparison last year when the escalating spread of the COVID-19 pandemic hit global demand for the island’s tech products.

In January, export orders surged 49.3% from a year earlier to $52.72 billion.

February orders were boosted by “telecommuting business opportunities” during the work-from-home trend as well as strong sales of smartphones, the ministry said.

Taiwan companies such as Foxconn and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) are key suppliers to Apple Inc, which launched its next-generation iPhone 12 in September.

The ministry described an “optimistic” outlook for orders in the coming months, boosted by strong global demand for the island’s tech products, and a gradual recovery of the global economy will also support orders for traditional products, such as metals.

The ministry expects export orders to rise between 35.4% and 39.1% in March, again thanks to a lower base last year due to the pandemic.

U.S. orders jumped 50.2% in February from a year earlier in their strongest growth on record, up from a rise of 49.6% in January, while orders from China were up 48.6% to a record high, versus a gain of 61.8% the previous month.

European orders rose 73.4%, while those from Japan were up 45.3%. (Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Yimou Lee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)