(Repeats ahead of data release on Wednesday)
* WHAT: February customs-based trade data from the Commerce Ministry
* WHEN: March 28, around 11 a.m. (0400 GMT
BANGKOK, March 28 (Reuters) - REUTERS FORECASTS (Pct change on-year unless stated) DATA MEDIAN RANGE JAN FORECASTERS Exports -4.7 -12.4/+9.2 -6.03 11 Imports +8.0 +2.0/+30.0 -4.20 11 Balance($bln) -0.60 -2.00/+1.52 -1.13 11
Thai exports likely fell 4.7 percent in February from a year earlier as many factories remained offline or ran at weak operating levels after devastating flooding late last year.
The worst floods in decades battered seven big industrial estates in October and many flood-hit plants are still closed. The central bank has said manufacturing may not return to normal until the third quarter.
Exports fell by a surprisingly large 6 percent in January on an annual basis.
"A point of worry for us is that only about 30 percent of manufacturers have resumed full production, below the target set by the government," said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at OCBC Bank, in Singapore.
Thailand is Southeast Asia's biggest car maker and the world's No.2 producer of hard disk drives. Industrial goods make up 65 percent of total exports, which are equivalent to more than 60 percent of GDP each year.
The central bank predicts export growth of just 7.8 percent for 2012 but the Commerce Ministry forecasts a 15 percent rise.
The central bank has cut its policy rate twice at the two previous meetings to help business cope with the floods. But officials have said the current rate of 3.0 percent is already supportive, and most economists expect no change in the policy rate at the next review on Wednesday.
Imports might have increased 8 percent in February from a year earlier after a 4.2 percent drop in January. Many imported goods go into re-exported products.
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($1=30.70 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Kim Coghill)