Thai banks' loans may rise 6-8 pct this year

BANGKOK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Thai commercial banks’ loans may increase 6-8 percent this year after rising 4.4 percent in 2017, reflecting the improving economy, a senior central bank official said on Monday.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) likely peaked in the final quarter of last year and might fall slightly in 2018, Daranee Saeju, a senior director of the Bank of Thailand’s financial institutions strategy department, told reporters.

Banks’ NPLs rose to 2.91 percent of loans at the end of last year, totalling 429 billion baht ($13.57 billion), compared with 2.83 percent at end-2016, the BOT said.

The central bank has forecast economic growth of 3.9 percent for both this year and in 2017. A BOT official recently said growth in 2017 might be 4 percent, when the state planning agency announces official GDP data on Feb. 19.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy grew 3.2 percent last year, less than regional peers.

($1 = 31.6200 baht)

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Richard Borsuk