Thailand: Merchandise exports rebound in March
Merchandise exports jumped 8.5% in annual terms in March, contrasting February’s 2.6% year-on-year decline. March’s reading marked the strongest result since October 2018. Meanwhile, merchandise imports rose 14.1% in annual terms in March, somewhat below February’s 22.0% surge.
As a result, the merchandise trade balance improved from the previous month, recording a USD 0.7 billion surplus in March, up from February 2021’s balanced reading (March 2020: USD 1.7 billion surplus). Lastly, the trend deteriorated, with the 12-month trailing merchandise trade balance recording a USD 20.4 billion surplus in March, compared to the USD 21.5 billion surplus in February.
Looking ahead, as the worldwide recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic continues and vaccination rates gain momentum, exports are set to pick up on the back of improved foreign demand. That said, the uncertain development of the pandemic, coupled with political challenges at home, pose a risk to the outlook.
Regarding the outlook for the external sector, Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics, sees some volatility ahead:
“We expect trade to be bumpy in H1 as a global chip shortage weighs on motor vehicle production, but we still look for exports to trend higher this year as the recovery in global trade broadens.”