Vietnam H1 trade surplus seen at $1.62 bln: report

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnam is forecast to post a trade surplus of US$1.3 billion (S$1.62 billion) in the first half of 2014, a state-run newspaper said on Monday.

First-half exports were estimated at US$70.9 billion, above imports of US$69.6 billion. Vietnam had a trade deficit of US$933 million in the first half of 2013.

In June alone, exports were estimated at $12.1 billion and imports at US$12.3 billion, leaving the monthly deficit at US$200 million, the Vietnam Economic Times newspaper said in an online report, citing government statistics.

Rising exports in 2012-2013 and a steady inflow of overseas remittances have helped swing Vietnam's trade balance to a surplus and boosted its foreign reserves to US$30 billion in January from US$9 billion in 2011, based on central bank data.

Last week Vietnam devalued its currency for the first time in a year, lowering the interbank midpoint rate for trading its dong currency by 1 percent, saying the move should help exports, its main economic driver.

Vietnam's gross domestic product grew 5.42 per cent last year, one of the fastest rates in the region, but the US$170-billion economy remains fragile, dependent on external markets and still grappling with toxic debt, bankruptcies and weak retail spending. It has targeted 5.8 per cent growth this year.

Hanoi has projected its export growth this year to slow to 10 percent, after a 15.4 percent rise in 2013.

The government is expected to release full trade details for the January-June period later this week.