Thailand: Export growth jumps at the start of the year
Thailand recorded a USD 120 million deficit in January, swinging from the USD 830 million surplus registered in the same month of last year but notably above the USD 280 million deficit clocked in December 2017. Only two months have seen trade deficits since July 2017: December and January. The 12-month sum of the trade balance moderated in January from December’s USD 13.9 billion surplus to a USD 13.0 billion surplus.
Export growth in January more than doubled December’s pace of expansion: Exports expanded 17.5% in January on an annual basis compared to an 8.6% increase in December. January’s result was the quickest pace of expansion since November 2012. The result, which was notably above more modest market expectations, was chiefly driven by greater exports of cars, computers and rubber products. Strong export demand buttressed growth last year and the robust momentum seemingly carried over into the new year. However, import growth outpaced exports in January and the external sector’s net contribution was therefore negative.
The strength of the Thai currency, which traded at 31.39 per USD on 20 February, remains a topic of concern among exporters but has seemingly not yet affect foreign demand. Demand from key markets remained resilient despite the strong baht, according to officials at the commerce ministry.