BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s manufacturing production index (MPI) contracted for a ninth straight month in January, down 4.59% from a year earlier, on lower production of cars, sugar and palm oil, the industry ministry said on Wednesday.
The outcome was worse than a forecast drop of 3.9% in a Reuters poll, and against December’s revised decline of 4.37%.
Capacity utilisation in January was 66.48%, up from a revised 64.02% in December.
In January, production of cars fell 12.8% from a year earlier while sugar dropped 15.2% and palm oil tumbled 40.7%, the ministry said.
But production of hard disk drives rose 13.5% last month year on year and air conditioners jumped nearly 22%.
The ministry expects the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China and spread to more than two dozen countries, to have a short-term effect on Thailand’s manufacturing output, mainly on the food industry, due to a drop in tourists, Thongchai Chawalitpichaet, head of the ministry’s Office of Industrial Economics, told a news conference.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand previously said the number of foreign tourists might fall by 5 million to around 35 million this year as the virus outbreak has raised fears of a pandemic. [nL4N2AD33X] [nL3N2AO2E6]
However, a weaker baht
“So, the overall picture should be positive,” Thongchai said, adding February’s output was expected to be similar to January’s level.
The ministry has forecast the MPI will rise 2% to 3% this year after last year’s 3.7% contraction.
(Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)