Thailand trade surplus expands as export slide eases

Thailand trade surplus expands as export slide eases

Thailand’s exports shrank by less than forecast, while imports fell sharply, taking the country’s trade balance deeper into surplus.

Exports from the south-east Asian country, a regional manufacturing hub for industries including electronics and automobiles, fell 2.15 per cent year on year in June, according to the central bank. The drop was lower than than the 5 per cent fall forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and was an improvement from the 5.79 per cent decline in May. 

Meanwhile, imports slid by a sharper-than-expected 9.44 per cent, versus a 2.96 per cent forecast fall, taking the country’s trade surplus to $3.21bn, up from $180m in the previous month.

Thailand has been weighed down by a slowdown in its manufacturing sector, particularly in its large electronics industry, as supply chains across Asia have been affected by trade tensions and stuttering regional growth. Data showed the country’s economy grew at its slowest pace in more than four years in the first quarter of this year. 

Export data in June will fuel hopes that the worst may be over for the south-east Asian nation’s economy, which also emerged from a period of prolonged political wrangling in the same month after the parliament elected incumbent military junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister. 

But analysts at ING warned that the outlook for south-east Asian exporters remained downbeat. “The balance of risk is tilted towards further export and manufacturing weakness across the region,” with “trade tensions between the US and China, and now between Japan and Korea, remaining elevated”, they said. 

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