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Thailand’s political crisis drags on

As Thailand’s political uncertainty continues, foreign investors are pulling funds out of the country.  A total of US$2.2b has exited Thailand’s equity markets since 1 November.

However, the initial mass exodus of foreign funds could be losing its momentum as the SET rebounded up to 1.2%, at one point yesterday. The SET could maintain its price levels if there’s progress on the political issues.

The risk is not knowing when the political unrest will end. Prime Minister Yingluck, dissolved parliament yesterday and called for a new election, yet it was not enough for the protestors. The party has the votes of low-income Thai’s, which makes it difficult for the opposition Democrats to win the election.

The protestors in Bangkok were made up of professionals, such as employees of Thai Airways and graduates from the country’s prestigious universities, according to the New York Times. Mr Suthep, leader of the protest, had incited great emotions through social media and calls for the ‘people’s council’ to replace parliament. This lacks constitutional basis and is not a solution.

The timing of this unrest has added to an already struggling economy. Permanent secretary of finance, Rangsan Sriworasart, warned that international credit rating agencies might lower Thailand’s BBB+ credit rating, if the demonstrations continue. GDP projection for 2013 was at 3.7%, prolonged protests has an impact on tourism and delays in government spending will trim it down to 3%, according to Somchai Sajjapongse, director general of the Fiscal Policy office. Consumer spending has been on a decline in the Q3, by 1.2%, compared the increase of 2.5% in Q2. Consumer confidence has also decreased to 75 in November, which is the lowest level since February 2012.

The better global economic landscape seen in China’s export could help buoy Thailand’s economy. Exports ticked up 3.8% year-on-year, in Q3 — although, the underlying weakness still remains. Since the start of November, the Thai baht has been one the worst performers against the US dollar, in the Asian currency ranking. It has lost 2.68% against the US dollar. The worst performer is the Indonesian rupiah with 4.6%. Thailand’s foreign reserves, which grew in September and October, took a dip in November. While investors and the media focus on Thailand’s political unrest, in the past 10-years, this protest like the others will come to an end, eventually.

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