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Thai March exports surprise, climb 4.17% as gold sales jump

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04/21/2020 | 04:21am EDT
Cargo ships are pictured near the port in Bangkok

Thailand's customs-based exports in March unexpectedly rose 4.17% from a year earlier, the strongest pace in eight months, boosted by shipments of gold and electronics, the commerce ministry said on Tuesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a drop of 6.85%, worsening from February's 4.47% decline as the coronavirus pandemic weighed more heavily on global economic activity and demand.

"If export figures continue like this, they may not fall 8% or 10% this year... they may show close to zero growth, or a little more than that," ministry official Pimchanok Vonkorpon told a briefing.

The central bank has predicted exports, a key growth driver, will contract 8.8% this year.

March's exports were lifted by a 215% surge in gold shipments. Excluding gold, exports rose just 0.17%.

Exports to the United States jumped nearly 43% in March from a year earlier due to higher shipments of electronics and weapons after military drills. But shipments to China fell 4.8%.

While the pandemic has disrupted some trade logistics, demand for food products has increased, the ministry said.

China?s recovery from the outbreak and a weaker baht should also support Thai shipments, it added.

Imports in March rose 7.25% from a year earlier, led by fuel and raw and semi-finished products. That compared with the forecast 10.79% drop, and February's 4.3% decline.

March's trade surplus was $1.59 billion versus a forecast for a $2.9 billion surplus and February's $3.9 billion surplus.

By Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon

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