January 22, 2018 / 4:11 AM / a year ago

Thai Dec exports up 8.6 pct y/y, below forecast

    BANGKOK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - 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
percent in December from a year earlier after jumping 13.4
percent in November, commerce ministry data showed on Monday.
    That missed the median forecast of a 10.65 percent rise from
economists polled by Reuters.
    The export gains were led by cars, computers and parts and
    Imports in December rose 16.6 percent from a year earlier
after increasing 13.7 percent in November, and more than the
forecast of a 10.35 percent rise.
    That resulted in a trade deficit of $0.28 billion in
December, the first deficit since July 2017, compared with a
forecast of $1.1 billion surplus.
    In 2017, exports grew 9.9 percent, while imports jumped
14.71 percent, giving a trade surplus of $13.9 billion,
Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, an official at the commerce ministry,
said at a briefing.
    The ministry expects export growth of 5-7 percent this year.
    Shipments rebounded last year, despite the baht
strengthening 9 percent against the dollar. In 2016, exports
rose just 0.5 percent after three years of contraction.
 (Percentage change from a year earlier, in dollar terms;
figures may not add up exactly due to rounding):
                               Dec      Nov      Oct     Sept
 Exports (pct y/y)             8.6     13.4     13.1     12.2
 ($US bln)                   19.74    21.43    20.08    21.81
 Imports (pct y/y)            16.6     13.7     13.5     9.73
 ($US bln)                   20.02    19.67    19.87    18.45
 Trade balance ($US bln)     -0.28     1.76     0.21     3.35
 ($1 = 31.88 baht)

 (Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai
Sriring; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)
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