Vietnam’s economy expanded less than anticipated in the first quarter as trade data indicated export growth slowed more than expected in March.

Vietnam’s gross domestic product grew 5.1 per cent in the first three months of 2017, falling markedly short of a median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicting year-on-year growth of 6.25 per cent.

That drop to the slowest rate of growth since the first quarter of 2014 was also well down from full-year growth of 6.21 per cent last year. The Asian Development Bank has forecast Vietnam’s GDP to rise 6.3 per cent in 2017.

Trade data released on Wednesday offered one possible explanation for the deceleration in headline growth.

Exports grew 12.8 per cent in March, according to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office, coming in below expectation of a 13.3 per cent rise and down from 15.4 per cent growth in February. Imports rose 22.4 per cent year on year, besting expectations by 0.4 percentage points and ramping up from growth of 19.6 per cent in February.

That shook out to a trade deficit of $1.1bn, shrinking from a substantially revised February deficit of $2bn (previously $1.2bn).

Industrial production was likewise depressed, growing 5.5 per cent year on year in March compared to a rise of 15.2 per cent in February.

New inflation data also pointed to softer price growth, with the country’s official consumer price index registering a rise of 4.65 per cent for March, down from 5.02 per cent the month prior and missing a median forecast calling for the gauge to hold basically steady at 6.25 per cent.

That was despite retail sales in the country accelerating half a per cent from February’s rate to grow 9.2 per cent year on year in March.

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