Taiwan's exports last month fell for a seventh month, but analysts said they saw hope for an improvement in the second half if there was a gradual recovery in the global and mainland economies. Exports, which account for about 70 per cent of Taiwan's economic growth, fell 35.7 per cent to US$15.59 billion from March last year, the finance ministry said yesterday. For the first quarter, exports stood at US$40.55 billion, down 36.6 per cent from last year, a record first-quarter drop, it said. The decline was because of steep falls in shipments to key markets such as the mainland and the United States, the ministry said. 'But compared with the past four months, the export value in March was the highest, showing signs of a slight picking up,' said Lin Li-chen, the statistics director of the ministry. Asked if this meant the export slump had reached bottom, Ms Lin was cautious, saying it would take two or three months more observation to arrive at that conclusion. Analysts said that for Taiwan to recover, the mainland and the US - the island's biggest markets - were key. 'With what we have seen in the past several months, it seems there could be a bottoming out from the second or third quarter that could lead to export growth in the fourth quarter,' said Bentham Hung, a senior analyst at Mega Wealth International Management Consultancy. Exports amounted to US$12.36 billion in January. They inched up to US$12.59 billion in February before reaching US$15.59 billion last month. 'The March figures basically reflect the continuation of urgent orders of electronic products from the mainland and such urgent orders plus quick refilling of the inventory by Taiwan's suppliers are expected to continue to May,' Mr Hung said. He said the mainland's recent decision to increase its subsidy for consumer electronic products as part of a programme to boost sales in the countryside was the reason for the rise in urgent orders. Taiwan's liquid crystal display and other electronic component makers have reported a sharp increase in such orders for last month. Exports to the mainland amounted to US$6.33 billion, or 40.6 per cent of total exports, a sharp rise from January's 29.9 per cent. Mr Hung said it was still hard to say when the US recovery would take place, but an upturn in the mainland's economy would definitely help Taiwan and Asia. In a recent report, the World Bank noted that the mainland was tipped to see growth later this year and its recovery would help support Asia. 'China remains a bright spot in the region and the global economy amid signs that economic activity may be bottoming out,' it said. The World Bank added that a recovery on the mainland, which it said was likely to begin this year and take full hold next year, 'should contribute strongly to the region's recovery'. Asian governments have unveiled more than US$700 billion in increased spending, tax reductions and cash handouts to try to cushion the global downturn. Last month, Taiwan's imports fell 49.5 per cent to US$12.2 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$3.4 billion, compared with February's US$1.67 billion and US$120 million in January.