Thai Consumer Mood Hits 9-Month Low After New Virus Outbreak

Thai
FILE PHOTO: A customer shops inside the Gourmet Market supermarket in Bangkok, Thailand May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

BANGKOK — Thai consumer confidence dropped for a second straight month in January, hitting a nine-month low, after a fresh wave of coronavirus inflections, while the government announced plans for more relief to millions affected by the outbreak. 

The consumer index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce fell to 47.8 in January, the lowest since a record low of 47.2 last April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its survey showed on Thursday.

The index was at 50.1 in December, when a new outbreak emerged before spreading to most of Thailand’s 77 provinces.

“Consumers were worried about an economic slowdown and future jobs because of the epidemic,” university president Thanavath Phonvichai told a briefing.

Consumer spending would remain low until early in the second quarter but sentiment could improve as the government rolled out new stimulus to help a tourism-reliant economy hit by the outbreak, he said.

The labour ministry plans to seek cabinet approval next week for a subsidy of up to 40.5 billion baht ($1.35 billion) to 9 million workers, with payments made in March, Minister Suchart Chomklin told a seminar on Thursday.

That will follow recently announced $7 billion in new stimulus to 31.1 million people, plus a subsidy to 1.34 million under the current co-payment scheme.

The government is considering additional measures to support Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told the seminar, without elaborating.

Thailand had largely controlled the virus by mid-2020 and analysts worry the latest outbreak will hit the country’s recovery as tourism flounders.

The central bank said on Wednesday the economy could grow less than its 3.2% forecast this year due to the slump in tourism.

While seeing growth of 2.8% this year, Thanavath said the latest government stimulus, if effectively implemented, could help the economy expand 3.4% this year.

($1 = 30.03 baht)

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty; Reuters

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