Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol

BANGKOK--Thailand's trade surplus narrowed in October as exports fell while imports rose, but economists remained somewhat upbeat about the country's economic recovery.

The Commerce Ministry said Monday that raw customs data show Thailand registered a trade surplus of $248 million in October, compared with $2.5 billion in the preceding month.

Exports fell 4.2% in October from the previous year to $17.78 billion after rising 3.4% in September. Imports rose 6.5% to $17.53 billion last month after a 5.6% gain in September.

Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, deputy director of the ministry's Office of Trade Policy and Strategy, said the latest drop in exports was because of lower oil-product and gold prices as well as a high base of comparison.

Industrial shipments, which account for nearly 80% of total exports, fell 2.7% from a year ago, while agriculture exports, which represent nearly 15% of total exports, dropped 8.1% in October.

Thai exports to the U.S. and Japan bucked the trend, however, rising 0.9% and 0.5%, respectively.

Most economists continue to remain optimistic about Thailand's outlook due to a pickup in global economic activity and an improvement in oil and commodity prices.

"Although the export data appears to be losing momentum, we maintain our view of dissipating cyclical headwinds on Thai exports. Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods (excluding gold) extended their positive growth to three consecutive months, implying a better outlook for Thai shipments," said Sarun Sunansathaporn, an economist at Bank of Ayudhya.

Tisco Financial Group maintained its positive view on Thai exports, citing "limited evidence of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump implementing his plan for trade barriers" for now.

In the first 10 months, Thailand's exports fell 1.0% to $178.25 billion while imports declined 5.9% to $160.07 billion. The country's trade surplus stood at $18.17 billion for the period.

The ministry maintained its exports-growth estimate for 2016 at minus 1.0% to 0%.

However, Ms. Pimchanok said she believes the country's exports might still finish the year with a small gain. An expected increase in U.S. interest rates next month and the outcome of this week's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will likely have an impact on Thailand's trade outlook, she said.

Write to nopparat.chaichalearmmongkol@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 28, 2016 04:50 ET (09:50 GMT)

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