Taiwan third-quarter GDP rebounds to two-year high as strong exports soften pandemic blow

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Cargo cranes are seen at Keelung Port during sunset hour in Keelung,

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's economy grew at its fastest pace in more than two years in the third quarter after a steep contraction earlier this year, as strong global demand for the island's tech exports and returning consumer confidence eased the pandemic hit.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.33% in the July-September period from a year earlier, preliminary data from the statistics agency showed on Friday, up from the second quarter's 0.58% drop, the deepest contraction in nearly 11 years.

It was well above the 1.5% growth forecast in a Reuters poll and was the strongest year-on-year growth since the second quarter in 2018, when the economy rose 3.4% yearly.

The island is rolling out a stimulus package worth T$1.05 trillion ($36.73 billion) to reduce the impact of strict border closures and a recent uptick in global electronics demand has also helped Taiwan shake off the drag from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has badly hit its services sector and tourism.

The government attributed the growth to "much better-than-expected" exports in the quarter, citing strong global demand for the island's electronics driven by new technologies such as 5G and by people who have been forced to work from home globally.

Exports for electronics and telecommunications products both rose more than 20% yearly in the quarter, the agency said.

Statistics official Wu Pei-hsuan said full year growth could reach 1.9%, higher than an August forecast of 1.56%, a five-year low.

Wu said strong demand for the island's electronics exports ahead of the year-end shopping season also contributed to the recovery, as well as a "significant growth" in domestic spending.

Taiwan's export orders, a key part of the global technology supply chain for giants such as Apple Inc <AAPL.O>, rose for the seventh consecutive month in September, helped by demand for the island's tech products such as laptops.

While life in Taiwan has been less disrupted than in countries with strict lockdowns, the government has repeatedly warned of uncertainty for the economy.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Jeanny Kao; Editing by Sam Holmes and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)