Industrial sentiment falls to six-month low on Covid restrictions, strong baht

Thailand’s industrial sentiment index fell for second consecutive month in January to a six-month low at 83.5, amid concerns that the latest Covid-19 outbreak would prolong containment measures, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said Thursday.

The sentiment stood at 85.8 in December. January’s figure was still better than 75.9 in April last year when the first wave disrupted the Thai economy, said FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree.

Economic activities and domestic demand slowed down due to the temporary work-from-home order and school closures, Supant said, adding that a container shortage and baht strengthening also pressured exports by making them relatively more expensive to overseas buyers.

A survey of 1,258 manufacturers in 45 industries showed that they were still concerned about the virus situation as the government had not started any vaccination process yet, adding more uncertainty to the national economic outlook. The three-month sentiment index in January, looking ahead to the likely situation in April, fell to 91.1 from 92.7 in December.

Supant urged the government to ensure the supply of shipping containers to help exporters and speed up the Covid-19 vaccine distribution, and called on the central bank to allow the baht to move in line with regional currencies, to keep baht-priced exports competitive.

The chairman also said that the FTI had already requested assistance schemes from the central bank, namely cash-flow incentives and soft-loan programmes. He said that the central bank will discuss the proposals with the Finance Ministry by next week.

Despite the downturn in manufacturing sentiment, FTI reported that total car exports in January amounted to 74,132 units, rising 13.53 per cent from the same month in 2019 and 8.25 per cent from December.

Thailand produced a total 148,118 cars in January, down 5.21 per cent year-on-year, dragged down by a decline in domestic car sales of 55,208 units which fell by 21.3 per cent year-on-year due to the unfavourable market conditions.

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