BANGKOK: Thailand’s Customs-cleared annual exports rose for a 10th straight month in December, but at a slower pace than the previous month and below expectations, and the country posted its first trade deficit in five months, Reuters reported. 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 yesterday. That missed the median forecast of a 10.65 per cent rise from economists polled by Reuters. 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. Last year, exports grew 9.9 per cent, while imports jumped 14.71 per cent, giving a trade surplus of US$13.9 billion, Commerce Ministry official Pimchanok Vonkhorporn said at a briefing.The ministry expects 2018 export growth of 5 to 7 per cent. In a research note, UOB said that for this year, it expects Thai exports will expand by 5 per cent owing to the high-base effects despite continued recovery of the global economy supporting a pickup in demand for main manufacturing and agricultural products.