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THAILAND/TRADE March exports at record high


April 23, 2008

March exports at record high

Thailand posted an unexpected trade surplus and record exports by value in March despite weaker export growth and slowing demand from the United States and Japan, Reuters reported Tuesday, quoting the Commerce Ministry.

Exports rose 14.4 percent to a record $14.77 billion in March while imports grew 32.7 percent to $14.61 billion, leaving an unexpected trade surplus of $160 million after two months of deficits, the ministry said.

However, analysts interviewed by Reuters said a global trade slowdown would be a drag on Thailand's export-led economy, but growing demand from other Southeast Asian nations and Europe would cushion the blow.

"Looking forward, our exports could see growth falling further, potentially a deeper sign of a slowdown in the second quarter," Tisco Securities economist Aksarapak Wongcharoen said.

"Is this a concern? I think not for now. There are signs of slowing trade globally. But if a market like the United States weakens, we still have other major markets in Asia to absorb the global impact," she said.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Thailand projected export growth to slow to 13.5-16.5 percent this year, but the forecast was still higher than its 9-12 percent prediction in January.

Exports to the United States dropped two percent in March after a 9.4 percent rise in February, while sales to Japan dipped 1 percent after a 10.2 percent increased a month earlier. The two markets accounted for 22.5 percent of the total.

Exports to China, which accounted for 9.5 percent, rose 24.4 percent in March, down from a 34.6 percent rise in February.

Exports to the European Union rose 8 percent in March from 6.5 percent in February, while shipments to five Southeast Asian neighbours rose 19 percent from 10.3 percent.

Imports in March were led by a 96.8 percent rise in crude oil as prices increased and a 24.5 percent increase in capital goods, the ministry said. In the first three months of 2008, exports grew 20.8 percent from the same period a year ago while imports rose 38 percent.

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