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Thailand 2012 Growth Forecast Raised After Exports Improved

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Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s Finance Ministry raised its forecast for expansion in 2012 as export growth quickened to a 15-month high in November after factories returned to full capacity following last year’s floods and demand improved.

Gross domestic product will increase 5.7 percent from an earlier forecast of 5.5 percent, Somchai Sujjapongse, head of the fiscal policy office, said in Bangkok today. Exports rose 26.9 percent last month from a year earlier after climbing 15.6 percent in October, the Ministry of Commerce said earlier. The median in a Bloomberg survey of 12 economists was 26.4 percent.

Indications that the global economy is strengthening have brightened the outlook for Asian exporters. Thailand’s monetary authority last month held the benchmark interest rate and Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul has said shipments of items from rice to electronics are expected to recover in the first half of next year and “really grow” in the second half.

“Signs of improvement in the global economy lately will ensure export growth next year,” Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong, an economist at Kasikorn Research Co. in Bangkok, said before the report. “We expect the central bank to stand pat from now unless the global economy takes an unexpected dive.”

The Thai baht slipped 0.1 percent to 30.65 against the U.S. dollar as of 4:52 p.m. in Bangkok. The benchmark SET Index gained 0.3 percent to the highest since February 1996.

Export growth may reach as much as 5 percent this year and 8 percent to 9 percent next year, Srirat Rastapana, director-general for the Commerce Ministry’s Department of International Trade Promotion, said today. That is higher than an earlier estimate of 4.17 percent in 2012.

Autos Surge

November imports rose 24.5 percent from a year earlier for a trade deficit of $1.45 billion, compared with a shortfall of $2.47 billion reported earlier for October, the report showed.

Thailand’s agricultural exports fell 5.9 percent in November, while industrial shipments climbed 47.2 percent, with electronics gaining 80.7 percent and autos surging 172.8 percent. Sales to Japan, China, the U.S. and Europe increased.

The economy has been driven by stronger-than-expected private consumption and investment and government stimulus measures, Somchai said. Expansion in the October-to-December period may be more than 15 percent, he said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra extended fuel subsidies and introduced wage increases after last year’s floods to spur domestic demand and offset weaker exports. Thailand’s economy, the biggest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, grew 3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier.

Thailand will be supported by an improving global economy next year, Somchai said, forecasting GDP growth of 5 percent, down from an earlier estimate of 5.2 percent. The prediction doesn’t take into account planned government spending of 2 trillion baht ($65 billion) on infrastructure projects over seven years, he said.

“This is a conservative forecast,” Somchai said. “If the government can spend 100 billion baht out of 2 trillion baht next year, the economy can be boosted further.”

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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