* Exports may increase by 3-5% in the first quarter and 4% in 2021
* January US exports + 12.4% per year, China + 9.9%
* January imports -5.24% compared to -8.30% in Reuters poll (adds detail, forecast H1)
BANGKOK, FEBRUARY 23 (Reuters) – Thailand’s exports in January rose for the second month in a row, up 0.35% from a year earlier, and should continue to grow this year with the recovery of the global economy, the Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday.
Exports, the main driver for growth in Thailand, are expected to rise 4% this year after a contraction of 6.01% in 2020, firm firm Fossi Ratanakol Serro-Angrit said.
Supporting factors include stimuli in some countries and the distribution of vaccines, he said, adding that growth in shipments could reach double digits in June.
“Exports could grow by 3-5% in the first half and by 3-4% in the second half,” he said.
January exports, however, were lower than the 1.85% rise in the Reuters poll and were slower than the 4.71% rise in December.
While shipments of cars and auto parts, computers and rubber products increased last month, gold exports fell 90.3% due to volatile gold prices. Excluding gold exports would have risen 6.27%, the ministry said.
Demand from key markets was mainly higher in January, with exports to the United States up 12.4% year-on-year, China up 9.9% and Japan 7.4% up.
Imports in January fell 5.24% year-on-year, to a forecast 8.3% decline, leading to a $ 202 million-a-month trade deficit. (Reported by Kitipong Taicharon and Stuasin Stafurncrenchai Writing by Oratai Sriding Edited by Ed Davis, Martin Patty)