UPDATE 1-Taiwan's April export orders surge again, outlook shadowed by COVID outbreak

(Recasts, adds detail)

* April orders +42.6% y/y vs +32.6% in Reuters poll

* Orders from China +40.5% y/y; U.S. +43% y/y

* Ministry sees May orders rising between 40.1% and 44% y/y

* Taiwan’s COVID outbreak an uncertainty - ministry

TAIPEI, May 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s April export orders rose for the 14th month in a row and far exceeded expectations, boosted by sustained demand for telecommuting products during strict lockdowns worldwide to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strong demand for smartphones made by the likes of Apple Inc also fuelled orders.

Taiwan’s export orders, a bellwether of global technology demand, jumped 42.6% from a year earlier to $54.93 billion in April, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Thursday.

That was much better than the median forecast of a rise of 32.6% in a Reuters poll.

The ministry attributed the strong performance to robust demand for smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, as well as electronics parts for the automotive sector, which has been suffering from a global shortage of chips.

In March, export orders jumped 33.3% from a year earlier to $53.66 billion.

Taiwan companies such as Foxconn and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) are key suppliers to Apple.

Last month, Apple posted sales and profits ahead of Wall Street expectations, fuelled by 5G iPhone upgrades, but warned that a global chip shortage could dent iPads and Mac sales by several billion dollars.

The ministry described the outlook for technology orders as strong as the global economy gradually recovers from the pandemic.

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, however, was a major uncertainty that could potentially hit local production, the ministry said, urging citizens to help contain the virus to keep manufacturing running.

Around half of Taiwan’s orders were manufactured on the island, the ministry said, adding that most of the manufacturers it surveyed expected no impact from the local outbreak.

The ministry expects export orders in May to rise between 40.1% and 44% from a year earlier.

U.S. orders in April jumped 43% from a year earlier, up from a rise of 33.2% in March, while orders from China were up 40.5%, versus a gain of 34.1% the previous month.

European orders rose 38%, while those from Japan were up 36.4%. (Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Yimou Lee; Editing by Kim Coghill)