February 21, 2018 / 4:24 AM / a year ago

Thai January exports jump 17.6 pct y/y, beat forecast

    BANGKOK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Thailand's customs-cleared
annual exports rose at their fastest pace in more than five
years in January, widely beating forecasts, thanks to strong
global demand.
    Exports, a key driver of Thailand's growth, jumped 17.6
percent in January from a year earlier after rising 8.6 percent
in December, commerce ministry data showed on Wednesday.
    That beat the median forecast of an 11.05 percent rise by
economists in a Reuters poll.
    The export gains were led by cars, computers and rubber
    Imports in January surged 24.3 percent from a year earlier
after jumping 16.6 percent in December, compared with the
forecast of a 15 percent rise.
    That resulted in a trade deficit of $119 million in January,
compared with a forecast of a $330 million surplus. In December,
Thailand had a trade deficit of $278 million, its first since
July 2017.
    Demand from key markets remained strong while the baht's
strength had little impact on shipments, Pimchanok Vonkhorporn,
a commerce ministry official, said at a briefing.      
    The ministry targets an export growth of 8 percent this year
after a 9.9 percent rise in 2017 despite the baht gaining 9
percent against the dollar. In 2016, exports rose just 0.5
percent after three years of contraction.
 (Percentage change from a year earlier, in dollar terms;
figures may not add up exactly due to rounding):
                               Jan      Dec      Nov      Oct
 Exports (pct y/y)            17.6      8.6     13.4     13.1
 ($US bln)                   20.10    19.74    21.43    20.08
 Imports (pct y/y)            24.3     16.6     13.7     13.5
 ($US bln)                   20.22    20.02    19.67    19.87
 Trade balance ($US bln)     -0.12    -0.28     1.76     0.21
 ($1 = 31.50 baht)

 (Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai
Sriring; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)
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