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    UPDATE - India's May exports up 13.53 pct, outlook bright
    Tuesday July 1, 6:08 am ET
    By Unni Krishnan

    (Adds analysts quotes, details and background)
    NEW DELHI, July 1 (Reuters) - India's exports surged 13.53 percent in May as manufacturers rushed to meet summer orders from the key markets of the United States and European Union (News - Websites) which take almost half the country's annual shipments.

    Analysts said they expected exports to grow at a steady pace over the next few months because of an expected revival in the global economy on the back of interest rate cuts and increased consumer confidence.

    Merchandise exports in May rose to $4.52 billion from $3.98 billion in the same month a year earlier after an 8.71 percent rise in April 2003.

    Exports between April and May jumped 11.12 percent to $8.86 billion from $7.97 billion in the year-ago period.

    "India is the flavour of the year. I expect growth to continue as globals markets are improving. SARS has also helped us grab market share from other Asian trading nations," Arun Goyal, director of the Academy of Business Studies, told Reuters.

    Analysts said increased consumer confidence in June and an expected revival on the back of an interest rate cut in the United States would mean higher shipments for Indian exporters.

    Most south east Asian economies took fright through much of the second quarter of the calendar year as panic over the deadly SARS virus hit travel to worst-affected areas such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.


    India has set a modest 12 percent annual export target despite 18 percent growth in 2002/03 (April-March) because of fears of a global economic slowdown and the rise of the Indian rupee against the U.S. dollar.

    "Exports should not be hurt due to another small dose of rupee-dollar appreciation but if it continues to appreciate substantially then it will hurt our exports," said B.B. Bhattacharya, dean of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

    Strong inflows from foreign funds and companies borrowing abroad to benefit from lower rates have helped the rupee to appreciate to more than two-year highs against the dollar in the past 12 months.

    It has risen more than 5.5 percent from a life low of 49.08 in mid-May 2002. The rupee (INR=IN) was at 46.47/48 a dollar, off an early high of 46.43 in early trade, but still firmer than its previous close of 46.4850/4925.

    Imports in May leapt 8.57 percent to $5.62 billion year-on-year, the Commerce and Industry Ministry said.

    Non-oil imports, which signify increased industrial activity, surged 25.93 percent to $8.30 billion from $6.59 billion in the year-ago period.

    April-May oil imports jumped 4.48 percent to $2.91 billion from $2.79 in the year earlier.