BANGKOK, March 29 (Reuters) - Thailand's Finance Ministry has raised its 2013 economic growth forecast to 5.3 percent from 5.0 percent due to strong domestic demand, but trimmed its export projection to reflect a stronger baht, a ministry official said on Friday.
Domestic consumption was expected to grow 4.6 percent this year, more than the 3.9 percent seen earlier, Somchai Sajjapong, chief of the ministry's fiscal policy office, told reporters.
'Although data has come in only for two months, we think growth this year will be higher at 5.3 percent, driven by domestic consumption,' he said, noting an increase in household income because of stimulus measures.
The economy expanded 6.4 percent in 2012 after growth of just 0.1 percent in 2011 due to devastating flooding.
The Bank of Thailand (BOT) has said it may revise up its 2013 economic growth projection from 4.9 percent in April.
Given this economic resilience, the BOT's policy committee is expected to leave its policy rate at 2.75 percent on April 3 despite government calls for easier policy to deter 'hot money' inflows and hold down the baht.
Somchai also said the ministry had cut its export growth forecast to 9 percent for 2013 from 10.5 percent due to the baht's strength.
Still, that is in line with the central bank's 9 percent prediction. Shipments rose about 3 percent in 2012 due to weak global demand and the effect of the bad floods in late 2011.
The baht has risen nearly 7 percent against the U.S. dollar so far this year, while most other Asian currencies have retreated.
Central bank data on Friday showed a fall in domestic consumption and private investment in February from January but the central bank said overall economic stability was maintained.
It said the drop 'was partly due to temporary factors such as fewer working days than normal and raw material constraints'.
Asian lunar new year holidays fell in February this year. Although it is not an official holiday in Thailand, many firms close or reduce activity.
According to the central bank, exports fell 3.4 percent in February from January and factory output slid 1.4 percent.
Consumption dipped 0.5 percent from January but rose 3.3 percent from a year before while investment fell 2.4 percent month-on-month but increased 9.5 percent year-on-year.
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Alan Raybould & Kim Coghill) Keywords: THAILAND GDP/
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