Thailand's Exports Climb for Sixth Month, Supporting Recovery Amid Unrest

Thailand’s exports rose for the sixth consecutive month in April on overseas demand for electronics and automobiles, helping to sustain an economy hurt by the nation’s worst political violence in 18 years.

Shipments jumped 35.2 percent from a year earlier to $14.1 billion, Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said in Nonthaburi province on the outskirts of Bangkok today. The median estimate of 11 economists in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 37.5 percent gain. Exports surged 40.9 percent in March.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy after Indonesia expanded the most since 1995 last quarter, growing 12 percent from a year earlier, amid an Asian export rebound that’s helped lift growth from Singapore to Taiwan. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said May 21 Thailand had restored order after anti-government protests, riots and a military crackdown led to more than 80 deaths in the past two months.

“Exports remain on the uptrend, backed by the firm recovery in the U.S. and continued growth in China,” Somprawin Manprasert, an economist at Tisco Securities Co. in Bangkok, said before the report. “The shipments will be a hero for Thailand as the local demand may be hurt in the aftermath of the political turmoil.”

Overseas sales, which account for about 60 percent of the economy, may grow as much as 28 percent and will be a main driver for the economy this year, the central bank forecast last month.

Political Unrest

“Exports are still growing well to all destinations as the economies of our clients continue to recover,” Porntiva said, adding that the ministry is maintaining its target for shipments to increase 14 percent this year. “The political chaos doesn’t affect our exports as airports and ports are still open. There was only a small disruption during the curfew.”

The government imposed a curfew in parts of Thailand as rioting erupted across Bangkok on May 19 after Thai security forces cleared an anti-government protest camp and forced the group’s leaders to surrender. About 15 people died on that day from the clashes and bombs. More than 30 buildings were set alight, including the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s building, the nation’s biggest shopping complex owned by Central Pattana Pcl and at least eight branches of Bangkok Bank Pcl, the country’s biggest lender.

Imports climbed 46 percent in April, the fifth consecutive month of gains, as the economic recovery boosts demand for raw materials and consumer goods. The nation reported a trade deficit of $266 million, compared with a $1.16 billion surplus in March.

Exports to the U.S. rose 12.5 percent in April, compared with a 33 percent gain a month earlier, while shipments to Europe increased 15 percent after climbing 30 percent in March. Sales to China advanced 26.9 percent compared with 48.8 percent in March, according to the ministry’s statement.

The baht was little changed at 32.55 per dollar at 11:05 a.m. in Bangkok. The currency has gained 2.3 percent this year as Asia’s recovery lures investors to its assets.

“The baht at this level is still acceptable by exporters,” Porntiva said. “This is because of the central bank’s good management. The baht level at 32-33 baht is still okay.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net

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