October 19, 2017 / 7:47 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Thailand raises forecast for 2017 exports, despite strong baht

* Sept exports +12.2 pct y/y, imports +9.73 pct y/y

* Ministry ups 2017 export growth estimate to more than 8 pct

* Expects no impact of baht on exports in Q4 (Adds new forecast, quotes)

By Satawasin Staporncharnchai

BANGKOK, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Thailand has raised its forecast for 2017 export growth for the second time in a month, showing a key driver for the economy has improved after years of sputtering.

The Commerce Ministry said on Thursday is now expects exports to increase more than 8 percent this year. In September, it hiked its original forecast of 5 percent to at least 7 percent.

In January-September, exports were 9.3 percent higher than a year earlier.

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn told reporters that with promotional activity in the last quarter, “we should keep up export momentum”.

On Thursday, the ministry said customs-cleared exports rose 12.2 percent in September from a year earlier. That beat the median forecast of 10.42 percent that economists told Reuters they expected, and made September the seventh straight month of on-year gains.

Exports rose a modest 0.5 percent in 2016 after contracting in each of the three previous years.

Exporters say they are under pressure from a strong baht , which has appreciated nearly 8 percent against the dollar this year, the biggest gain in Asian currencies.

However, the baht’s strength has had only a little impact on exports, historical data showed. The central bank has said trade partners’ economies matter more.

Imports increased 9.73 percent from a year earlier in September and 14.8 percent in the January-September period.

Thailand had a trade surplus of $3.35 billion in September, higher than a forecast of $2.55 billion. ($1 = 33.12 baht)

Additional reporting and writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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