Thailand: Export growth moderates but trade surplus widens in March
In the final month of the first quarter, Thailand’s important external sector recorded its biggest trade surplus in four months, despite a stronger-than-expected moderation in export growth. In March, Thailand’s trade balance recorded a surplus of USD 1.3 billion, which was above the USD 810 million surplus in the prior month. However, the surplus came in below the one logged in the same month a year ago (USD 1.6 billion surplus). Moreover, the 12-month sum of the trade balance dropped from USD 12.2 billion in February to USD 11.8 billion in March.
Growth in exports moderated notably in March to 7.0% year-on-year, down from the prior month’s 10.3% increase. The result, which was in part due to a large base effect, marked the slowest pace of expansion since February 2017 and came in below market expectations of a stronger 8.0% increase. Nonetheless solid, the result was driven by robust foreign demand for industrial products such as automobiles, computers and chemicals. In addition, demand from most major markets, with the exception of China, picked up. Exports of agricultural products, however, contracted for the first time in 16 months. Meanwhile, import growth also moderated significantly in the same month but still outpaced export growth. Imports grew 9.4% on the year, notably below the prior month’s 16.0% year-on-year expansion.