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Manufacturing slows down in March: think tank

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Manufacturing in Taiwan slowed down in March on sluggishness in the petrochemical, steel and auto sectors, according to a report by a local think tank published Tuesday.

The Taiwan Institute of Economic Research's manufacturing index in March was 12.53, down from 13.32 in February.

The March reading represented a yellow-blue light, signaling a slowdown, while the slightly higher index in February flashed a green light, representing stability.

The think tank attributed the decline to sluggishness in the domestic petrochemical sector due to slowing growth in China and falling international crude prices, which hurts Taiwan's exports of oil products, the think tank said.

The sector's weakness was also driven by a slowdown in the metal products sector, as a rebound in local steel prices was blunted by a steel glut in China, and slower growth in the production of automobiles and auto parts.

The think tank saw stability in the electronics sector, however, as demand for hand-held devices continues to climb and demand for computers improve.

But growth in those two areas was offset by falling flat panel prices in the face of stiff competition from Chinese and South Korean manufacturers.

Despite recovery in Europe and the United States, the think tank forecast a slowdown for the whole year, primarily due to slowing growth in China and Southeast Asia.

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