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ADB cuts Southeast Asia growth outlook

The Asian Development Bank on Friday downgraded its 2014 economic outlook for Southeast Asia, citing political tensions in Thailand and Vietnam and soft external demand in Indonesia.

HONG KONG: The Asian Development Bank on Friday downgraded its 2014 economic outlook for Southeast Asia, citing political tensions in Thailand and Vietnam and soft external demand in Indonesia.

The Manila-based lender said in a supplement to its economic outlook for the region that it expected gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 4.7 per cent for the year, compared with its April projection of five per cent.

Indonesia's growth for the first quarter of the year slowed to 5.2 per cent with low commodity prices and a temporary export ban on selected minerals slowing recovery in net exports, the bank said.

Analysts had previously warned that Indonesia, the region's biggest economy, faced a long period of uncertainty following last week's disputed presidential election, compounding problems as growth sits at four-year lows and foreign investment shrinks.

In Thailand, the economy contracted 0.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, as "political deadlock" hit domestic demand and the crucial tourism industry.

The economy was wracked by nearly seven months of protests that saw 28 people killed and paralysed the government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

However, the bank said with a military coup in May consumer confidence had improved and there was a "tentative sign that a modest recovery may take hold in the second half of the year".

The bank also said adjustments were made to Vietnam's economic forecast due to the economic effect of tensions with China.

Relations between Hanoi and Beijing plummeted when, in May, a Chinese oil rig was moved near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, which are claimed by both countries.

"Recent data suggest that Southeast Asia has softened...as growth prospects faltered," the ADB supplement said, adding that it sees growth of 5.4 per cent in 2015.

Its estimate for the gross domestic product (GDP) for developing Asia, which covers 45 nations, was unchanged at 6.2 per cent in 2014 and 6.4 per cent next year.

"The growth outlook for developing Asia is stable, with the region projected to grow steadily," the statement said, adding that downgrades for Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific were balanced by an upward revision for South Asia.

The ADB expects Chinese growth to remain at 7.5 per cent this year with a slight drop to 7.4 per cent in 2015.

It also said there was an improved outlook for India following the election of conservative Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The region's GDP is now expected to grow 6.1 per cent in 2015, compared to a previous estimate of 5.8 per cent.

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