Thailand's exports post surprise 22.5% plunge in May, most since 2009

The baht's climb of more than 6 per cent against the dollar in the past three months is an additional challenge. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's exports dropped 22.5 per cent in May from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2009, underlining the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on the nation's trade-reliant economy.

May's plunge in shipments exceeded all but one of the 16 projections in a Bloomberg survey, whose median estimate was for a decline of 5.75 per cent. The country was under a lockdown last month to tackle the novel coronavirus.

"The April and May numbers are already low, and may not go lower," Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director general of the Commerce Ministry's trade policy and strategy office, said in a briefing on Wednesday (June 24)after the release of the data. "But the concern is about when they will recover."

Thailand's other key economic engine, tourism, has also collapsed due to travel restrictions, leaving the economy on course for the worst contraction in about two decades. The baht's climb of more than 6 per cent against the dollar in the past three months in an additional challenge, as it poses a threat to competitiveness.

The Commerce Ministry data showed that imports slumped 34.4 per cent from a year ago, leaving a trade surplus of $2.7 billion.

Gold exports surged 735 per cent last month. Thailand is among Asia's largest gold-trading hubs, and local traders are thought to be taking profits from the metal's rally and converting them to baht, driving currency gains.

The central bank will release fresh economic forecasts later Wednesday after a policy meeting that's expected to leave borrowing costs at a record low of 0.50 per cent. The virus has dwindled, allowing officials to lift most of the country's lockdown, but fears of a second wave linger.

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