BoT outlook for exports perking up
Purchasing power still weak for low earners
Thailand's export growth is likely to be moderately above the Bank of Thailand's 4% estimate for this year in light of the robust pace in January and its bright outlook, while the purchasing power of low-income earners in January remained weak, says a senior official at the central bank.
"8% growth is possible, but it will not be easy," said Don Nakornthab, senior director of the central bank's economic and policy department.
The government set a lofty target of 8% export growth this year after the Commerce Ministry reported that exports rose 17.6% year-on-year in January to US$20.1 billion (632 billion baht), marking the highest increase since November 2012.
The central bank said export value jumped 16.6% year-on-year and imports surged 22.5% in the first month of the year as inventory hoarding ahead of the Chinese New Year in February provided a boost.
The Commerce Ministry and Bank of Thailand use a different base for export and import data. The former uses customs-cleared figures, while the latter uses payment-based numbers.
Mr Don said February's exports and imports possibly dropped from January as the impact from piling up inventory for the Chinese New Year wore off. But he said the trade outlook remains good.
Private consumption indicators expanded from the same period last year in all categories. But fundamental factors supporting the overall household purchasing power were not yet robust, particularly in the low-income group. Non-farm income slightly increased, while farm income remained subdued from decreased agricultural prices despite increased production.
Nominal farm income shrank 3.4% year-on-year in January, albeit falling at a slower pace from the previous month, when it contracted 3.6% as rice prices picked up for the second month straight.
"Rubber prices have not recovered yet and this has pressured nominal farm income," Mr Don said, adding that even though the number of rice growers is far larger than the number of rubber farmers, the latter normally have higher income.
Mr Don said January's economic growth continued from last year, thanks to strong exports and tourism and accelerated state spending, private consumption and investment.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals registered growth of 10.9% year-on-year, expanding for almost all nationalities, consistent with the robust pickup of the global economy.
The private investment index in January rose to 1.2 from 0.3 in December and November.
Private investment indicators slightly increased from the previous month and are forecast to continue their upward trend. Investment in construction rose slightly, reflected by the increase in construction material sales, while investment in machinery and equipment remained unchanged.