Thailand: Export growth moderates at the end of 2017
Thailand’s external sector recorded a USD 280 million deficit in December, significantly below the USD 1 billion surplus registered in the same month of the previous year and markedly below the USD 1.8 billion surplus logged in November. December’s result was the first trade deficit since July 2017. As a result, the 12-month sum of the trade balance decreased in December to a USD 13.9 billion surplus, notably below the result in the prior month (November: USD +15.2 billion).
Exports grew 8.6% on an annual basis in December, below the prior month’s 13.3% year-on-year increase and below market expectations. Exports of cars, computers and rubber products led the way in the month. Imports grew, however, at a quicker pace than exports. They registered an increase of 16.6% year-on-year, coming in above the prior month’s 13.7% annual growth rate.
Ongoing worries that the strength of the baht could hurt export growth led exporters to press the Bank of Thailand to intervene. On 17 January the Bank’s governor said, however, that while exports have not been harmed yet, the Bank would ensure that exporters and certain businesses would not be affected negatively.