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Thai economy expected to top last year’s growth,  but external factors present challenges, forum tol

Apr 09. 2018
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By The Nation

The Thai economy is projected to gain further traction this year, with growth topping the 3.9 per cent recorded in 2017, driven mainly by exports and tourism, Kasikornbank president Predee Daochai said on Monday.

Speaking at a seminar titled “The Symbol of Your Visionary: Keep Up with the Economy and Be Investment Leader in 2018”, he said public investment would also be a plus to the economy after certain mega-projects were delayed from last year. 

The economy is expected to show stable growth as planned, provided that the government gradually pushes for the enactment of laws related to the Eastern Economic Corridor and the general election, which will be a prelude for rising inflows of foreign direct investment, Predee added. 

Nonetheless, the economic recovery will remain challenged by several downsides, especially external factors which are “beyond our control”, he cautioned. 

The KBank chief said there were three major trends for the remainder of the year, the first of them being trade protectionism.

Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the US administration has, from early this year, initiated a string of trade measures, reasoning that they are necessary to protect domestic manufacturing and national security. 

The latest in the series is the trade measures against intellectual-property violation, which have sent an impact at the levels of both the products listed and the US’s trade partners, Predee said. 

One of the targets is China, which recorded a trade surplus with the US to the tune of US$375 billion (Bt11.72 trillion) last year.

The second trend is international fund movements, he told the seminar.

While waiting for clarification on the trade-protectionism issue, the greenback may weaken, running counter to Asian and Thai currencies, which are strengthened by capital inflows. 

However, before such worry eases, the market may shift more weight to other important factors, such as the US Federal Reserve’s signals to increase the policy interest rate, Predee said, adding that these circumstances may accelerate the pace of fund movements, resulting in volatility and fluctuations of currencies and asset values worldwide during the year. 

The third major trend is the interest-rate uptrend of major countries.

In particular, close attention is being paid to the US as the market waits to see whether there will be more than three rate hikes in 2018. 

Such a decision would impact returns in the international and Thai financial markets, he said.

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