January exports up 16.1% year-on-year

Thailand's exports rose more than economists estimated in January as global recovery boosted demand, reducing pressure for further interest-rate cuts.

Overseas sales in January climbed 16.1% year-on-year to US$18.3 billion after climbing a previously reported 13. 5% in December, 2012, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 17 economists was 13.4%.

Thailand joined neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in reporting stronger-than-estimated economic growth last quarter, adding to signs the region is rebounding from a global slowdown. The Bank of Thailand last week held its key interest rate for a third time and said it expected a gradual recovery in exports this year, resisting the governments calls for lower borrowing costs to cool the bahts gains.

There are positive signs in the global economy, especially in Asia, and that will help sustain export growth, Thanomsri Fongarunrung, an economist at Phatra Securities Pcl in Bangkok, said before the report. The risks to growth have lessened. There is no solid economic reason to cut the rate. Still, the central bank may face political pressure again if the baht strengthens further.

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has renewed calls for further rate cuts to discourage inflows that have boosted the baht to be the biggest gainer this year among 11 widely-traded Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The baht was little changed at 29.83 per dollar as of 11:16 a.m. in Bangkok on Wednesday.

Imports climbed 40.9% in January from a year earlier as factories stepped up output after recovering from the floods of 2011. The trade deficit last month was $5.5 billion, the widest shortfall since at least 1991, the report showed.

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