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UPDATE 1-Taiwan exports return to growth in Sept, beat forecast

* Exports up 10.4 pct in Sept, beating forecasts

* Ministry says sees steady recovery in Q4

* Jump due to base effect, caution over outlook: analyst

(Recasts, adds comment)

TAIPEI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Taiwan's exports rose more than expected in September after six straight months of declines, buoyed by demand for new electronics products ahead of the year-end shopping season, with the key U.S. and China markets returning to growth.

Exports jumped 10.4 percent, above a median forecast in a Reuters poll for a 3.6 percent rise and also above the poll's highest forecast of a rise of 9.7 percent. Imports rose 1.3 percent against a forecast for a rise of 0.33 percent.

Year-end demand for electronics goods including computers and flat panels helped growth in September, offsetting weakness in smartphones, while exports of refined oil products surged,

the finance ministry said on Monday.

It added that it saw a steady recovery in overseas sales in the fourth quarter, making it one of the few bright spots in Asia as the region's export powerhouses suffer from the slowdown in the West and China.

"Seasonal demand seems not to have been affected, and after the launch of iPhone 5 and with improving confidence in Europe, we may see five months of strong demand coming until the lunar new year," said Aidan Wang, economist at Yuanta Financial in Taipei.

"Taiwan could return to its normal momentum."

The positive turn was in line with the central bank's recent assessment of strong overseas sales in early September and a slight recovery overall in the second half, and that of the finance ministry which had said that, in value terms, exports could return to growth in September.

The island's economics ministry said last month industrial output, which is closely tied to exports, would be positive again in September.

Exports to China rose 6 percent in September, reversing from a fall of 5.7 percent in August, while those to the United States turned to 2.7 percent growth from an 8.4 percent decline in August.

Taiwan is one of the most open of Asia's exporters, with an exports-to-gross domestic product ratio of 74 percent, and almost half of Taiwan's exports are of electronics, making it extra-vulnerable to declines in external demand.

The island cut its 2012 GDP forecast for the eighth time in a year in August to 1.66 percent

due in large part to weak exports. OUTLOOK STILL UNCERTAIN

However the outlook for Taiwan still remains uncertain, with forward indicators pointing to tough times ahead.

Orders for Taiwan's exports, an indicator of demand two to three months ahead, shrank for a sixth month in August

, while the latest PMI survey showed orders for Taiwan's exports fell anew in September.

Fellow technology exporter South Korea reported a fall in exports in September, though not by as much as forecast.

"As it's mainly caused by a low base effect, the (Taiwan September) figure doesn't indicate an economic recovery," said Forest Chen, economist at Ta Chong Bank in Taipei.

"We forecast exports in Q4 to grow 5.1 percent, versus a fall of 4.3 percent in Q3, also due to a low base."

(Reporting by Jeanny Kao; writing by Jonathan Standing; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

((jonathan.standing@thomsonreuters.com)(+886 2 2500 4881)(Reuters Messaging: jonathan.standing.thomsonreuters.com@thomsonreuters.net))

Keywords: TAIWAN ECONOMY/EXPORTS