* 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