By Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol

BANGKOK--Thailand's consumer confidence rose in December for the first time in three months, buoyed by gains in exports and a year-end tax break.

The Thai consumer confidence index advanced to 73.7 last month from 72.3 in November, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said Thursday. This marked the highest reading since September, when the index was at 74.2.

Readings above below 100 indicate a positive outlook, while those below 100 indicate a negative one.

The latest survey, which asked 2,244 respondents from across the country late last month, found local consumers were more optimistic about the economic situation after Thailand's exports recently registered their highest growth in nine months.

Official data showed Thailand's customs-basis exports grew 10.2% from a year ago to $18.91 billion in November, while imports rose 3.0% to $17.37 billion. This has resulted in a trade surplus of $1.54 billion.

The university also attributed stronger consumer confidence to the government's tax break at year's end for domestic spending and its unveiled policy to boost rice prices. The Bank of Thailand's decision to maintain its 3.2% gross domestic product growth forecast for 2016 was also a factor.

However, respondents to the survey remained cautious about the possible effect on exports and growth from rising retail fuel prices, a high cost of living and the global economic outlook.

Also, despite a likely surge in spending by consumers in December as a result of government stimulus, UTCC said the sub-100 confidence index highlights their concerns over volatility in the local and global economies.

The university also said it expects a recovery in domestic spending to be slow in the first quarter of 2017 as many consumers remain concerned about the general economic situation until at least the next quarter.

Write Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol to

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2017 00:01 ET (05:01 GMT)

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