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 22 Apr 2009

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Thai export decline seen continuing in Q2

Thai exports fell for the fifth month in March while imports also dropped sharply, and analysts said the trend was bound to continue for a while, although some took heart from an improvement in trade with China, reported Reuters.

Exports, worth around 60 percent of gross domestic product each year, fell 23.1 percent in March from a year earlier to $11.56 billion after an 11.3 percent drop in February, according to Commerce Ministry data.

"With demand conditions not likely to improve in any significant way, we see very little scope for upside in these numbers down the road," said Forecast economist Carl Rajoo in Singapore.

Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong at Kasikorn Research Center agreed. "We expect the average drop in the second quarter will perhaps exceed 20 percent for exports," she said.

Imports fell 35.1 percent to $9.46 billion after a 40.3 percent drop in February, Commerce Ministry official Siripol Yodmuangcharoen told reporters.

Exports in the first quarter fell 20.6 percent from last year and imports 37.6 percent. The trade account showed a surplus of $2.1 billion in March after a $3.58 billion surplus in February.

Exports to major markets were lower in March due to the global slowdown although the trend in exports to China improved for the second month, suggesting to analysts that the world's third-largest economy may be heading for a recovery.

Orders from China, accounting for 10.5 percent of the total, slid just 14 percent after a 29 percent fall in February.

"Looking at the global trend, we think it's likely that the Chinese economy could see early signs of recovery starting in the second quarter, whereas major economies like the US and Japan will probably take longer," said Pimonwan at Kasikorn Research.

Nuchjarin Panarode at Capital Nomura Securities noted that exports in February were distorted by unusually high gold sales. "But if we exclude that item, March's figure looks more of an improvement, suggesting that exports did not deteriorate."

Exports to the United States fell 28.4 percent in March on the year, those to Japan 30.1 percent and to the euro zone 37.8 percent. Sales to five Southeast Asian neighbours fell 35.5 percent.

Elsewhere, Taiwan's exports fell 35.7 percent in March from a year earlier, while Singapore's exports fell 17 percent.

The sharp drop in imports was exaggerated by a 40.2 percent fall in the value of crude and petroleum products, but imports of capital goods were weak, dropping 24.7 percent.

Thailand's export-driven economy has been hit by the collapse in global demand, as well as sluggish consumption and investment after months of political unrest.

Following last week's violent anti-government protests, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Tuesday the economy could shrink 4-5 percent this year.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast a contraction of as much as 4 percent. The economy grew 2.6 percent last year.

After a 6.1 percent contraction in the final quarter of 2008, Thailand is almost certainly experiencing its first recession since the Asian economic crisis 11 years ago.




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