Thailand Q1 Slump Eases, Outlook Cut as COVID19 woes Linger

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BANGKOK, May 17 Reuters Thailands economy shrank in the first quarter as coronavirus outbreaks hurt consumption and tourism, but the fall was less than expected helped by stronger nonagricultural output and exports.

Southeast Asias secondlargest economy contracted 2.6 in the March quarter from a year earlier, data from the National Economic and Social Development Council showed on Monday, versus a forecast 3.3 drop in a Reuters poll.

On a quarterly basis, gross domestic product GDP rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 in the first quarter, beating the 0.8 drop forecast by economists.

In the final quarter of 2020, the economy shrank 4.2 from a year earlier but expanded a revised 1.1 on the quarter.

The planning agency downgraded its economic growth outlook for a second time this year to 1.52.5 from 2.53.5 seen three months ago due to the latest wave of infections, the countrys biggest so far.

The latest outbreak, which started in April and has accounted for more than two thirds of Thailands total infections, has crimped domestic activity amid the countrys slow vaccine rollout as it was preparing to reopen more broadly to foreign visitors.

Increased exports, a key growth driver, have lent some support, however.

The NESDC now expects exports to rise 10.3 this year, rather than increase 5.8.

But it forecasts just half a million foreign tourists this year, down from an earlier forecast of 3.2 million arrivals. That compared with nearly 40 million foreign visitors in 2019….

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