Thai Sept consumer mood drops for first time in 5 months, protests weigh


BANGKOK, Oct 8 (Reuters)Thai consumer confidence dropped in September for the first time in five months on concerns about growing political protests, a slow economic recovery and job losses from the coronavirus pandemic, a university survey showed on Thursday.

The consumer index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce fell to 50.2 in September from 51.0 in August.

“Various political gatherings made people have no confidence in government stability,” while the surprise exit of the country’s finance minister last month was negative, university president Thanavath Phonvichai told a briefing.

Demonstrators have rallied against the military-backed government in larger numbers in recent months, with some also calling for reforms of the powerful monarchy. The next big protest is set for Oct. 14.

Consumers felt the economic situation remained bad as tourism has yet to recover, Thanavath said.

“If the situation does not improve, there may be more than 500,000 job cuts in the sector in the fourth quarter,” he said.

Thailand has recorded no foreign tourists since April and relatively few infections due to a travel ban designed to keep the coronavirus at bay.

It aims to receive its first visitors later this month as part of an incremental reopening, but only a small fraction of the usual influx.

Recent government stimulus measures are positive, but most consumers felt the economy would recover in the second half of next year, Thanavath said.

The university predicts Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to contract 7%-9% this year before growing 3%-4% next year, he said.

(Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)

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