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Thai Dec exports up 8.6% y-o-y, below forecast

[BANGKOK] Thailand's customs-cleared annual exports rose for a tenth straight month in December, but at a slower pace than the previous month and below expectations, and posted its first trade deficit in five months.

Exports, a key driver of Thailand's growth, increased 8.6 per cent in December from a year earlier after jumping 13.4 per cent in November, commerce ministry data showed on Monday.

That missed the median forecast of a 10.65 per cent rise from economists polled by Reuters.

The export gains were led by cars, computers and parts and rubber.

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Imports in December rose 16.6 per cent from a year earlier after increasing 13.7 per cent in November, and more than the forecast of a 10.35 per cent rise.

That resulted in a trade deficit of US$0.28 billion in December, the first deficit since July 2017, compared with a forecast of US$1.1 billion surplus.

In 2017, exports grew 9.9 per cent, while imports jumped 14.71 per cent, giving a trade surplus of US$13.9 billion, Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, an official at the commerce ministry, said at a briefing.

The ministry expects export growth of 5-7 per cent this year.

Shipments rebounded last year, despite the baht strengthening 9 per cent against the dollar. In 2016, exports rose just 0.5 per cent after three years of contraction.