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[BANGKOK] Thailand's customs-cleared exports rose in December, which ended a three-year streak in which shipments declined, an encouraging sign for the trade-reliant economy which has struggled to grow in the face of tepid demand abroad and at home.
Exports rose 6.2 per cent in December from a year earlier, a second straight month of annual gains after a 10.2 per cent jump in November, commerce ministry data showed on Tuesday.
Higher oil prices, which lifted the prices of other commodities, helped boost December exports.
The median forecast of nine economists was for December exports to expand 8.20 per cent from a year earlier.
The December gain meant that total 2016 Thai shipments increased 0.45 per cent, ending three straight years of export contraction.
Thai exports this year are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 per cent due to improved oil and commodity prices, Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, the ministry's head of trade policy and strategy office, told reporters.
Last month, the ministry predicted 2017 exports would grow 2.5-3.0 per cent.
Imports in December increased 10.3 per cent from a year earlier. Economists had expected a rise of 5.55 per cent after November's 3.0 per cent increase.
That produced a trade surplus of US$0.94 billion in December, compared with November's US$1.54 billion.
For all of 2016, the trade surplus was a record high US$20.7 billion. Many materials that Thailand imports are assembled into completed goods and shipped out again.
Thai exports, worth about two-thirds of the country's GDP, have been long weak due to sluggish global demand and structural problems at home.