Thai finance ministry cuts 2016 GDP growth forecast to 3.3%

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand's economy is expected to grow 3.3 per cent this year, the finance ministry said on Thursday, down from its previous forecast of 3.7 per cent due to weaker exports.

The ministry predicted that exports, a key driver of the economy, will contract 0.7 per cent this year. Earlier it saw a 0.1 per cent rise. Exports have fallen the past three years.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy likely grew around 3 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, Kulaya Tantitemit, chief economist at the ministry's Fiscal Policy Office, told reporters. The economy expanded 0.8 per cent in October-December from the previous quarter and 2.8 per cent on the year.

Thailand will release official first-quarter growth data on May 16.

The ministry said preliminary manufacturing production in March rose 1.8 per cent in March. Official Industry Ministry data is due on Friday.

On Tuesday, Bank of Thailand Deputy Governor Paiboon Kittisrikangwan told Reuters the central bank maintained its 2016 economic growth forecast of 3.1 per cent, with exports falling 2 per cent.

Growth in 2015 was 2.8 per cent.