Vol. 5 Num 1104 Mon. July 09, 2007  

Thai stocks shrug off political woes

Over the last year, Thailand has suffered a coup, deadly bomb blasts in Bangkok, and a bloody spike in violence in a long-running separatist insurgency.

But the stock market doesn't seem to care.

Last week, as the country marked 10 years since it floated its baht currency and sparked the Asian financial crisis, both the Thai bourse and the baht hit their highest levels since the regional meltdown.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand composite closed Friday at 832.38 points, up 7.15 percent for the week, while the baht was trading around 34.00 to the dollar after flirting with the 33.97 mark.

The baht is even stronger in offshore trading, at around 31.5 to the dollar.

The gains came largely from foreign investors funnelling money into the kingdom after the Bank of Thailand released economic data showing that exports had jumped 18 percent in the five months to May.

As of July 6, foreign investors had poured 101 billion baht (2.97 billion dollars) into Thailand this year, compared to 155 billion baht for all of 2006.

"Improving sentiment has been shown through rising stock investments, which have been spread across the region. I don't think this phenomenon is just short-term, but for the rest of the year," Maris Tarab, managing director ING Fund (Thailand) told AFP.

Investors appeared to take a brighter view of Thai politics as ongoing anti-coup protests have so far remained peaceful, he said.