India's merchandise exports rose 9.1% to $38.13 billion in May from a year earlier, helped by an increase in shipments of engineering goods, commercial vehicles and smartphones, government data showed on Friday.

Merchandise imports in the same month rose 7.7% year-on-year to $61.91 billion - widening the trade deficit to $23.78 billion. Economists had expected a deficit of $19.5 billion, according to a Reuters poll.

In April, trade deficit was of $19.1 billion.

Analysts say merchandise exports - which contracted 3.1% to $437 billion in the previous fiscal year - are likely to pick up helped by a projected rebound in global trade, government incentives for manufacturing and easing domestic inflation.

Inflation has eased in developed economies, potentially leading to better demand, and a rise in imports from India, trade secretary Sunil Bharthwal said while releasing the figures.

"This will be a positive trend for Indian exports this fiscal year," he said, noting exports of goods were helped by increased shipments to the United States.

Services exports in May were estimated at $30.16 billion and imports at $17.28 billion, compared with $30.33 billion and $16.63 billion respectively in April.

Asia's third-largest economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace of 7.8% in the January-March quarter, helped by a strong performance in the manufacturing sector. Economists expect the momentum to continue this year.

(Reporting by Shivangi Acharya and Manoj Kumar; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee)