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Thailand's consumer outlook slips to one-year low as recovery stalls

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Thai consumer confidence slipped to a more than one-year low in June dampened by economic uncertainty, falling exports, low commodity prices and drought, a university survey showed on Thursday.

[BANGKOK] Thai consumer confidence slipped to a more than one-year low in June dampened by economic uncertainty, falling exports, low commodity prices and drought, a university survey showed on Thursday.

The consumer confidence index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce fell to 74.4 in June from 75.6 the previous month, its sixth consecutive month of decline.

The June reading was the lowest since May last year, when confidence was partly restored after the army seized power that month to end political turmoil that hammered domestic activity.

Thanavath Phonvichai, an economics professor at the university, told a news conference the persistent decline in consumer confidence was a "frightening" sign and suggested a weak economic performance in April-June.

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The university expects annual growth of 2.5-3.0 per cent in the second quarter, he said. In January-March, annual growth was 3.0 per cent. "There are no signs that consumer confidence will pick up. The government needs to come up with more measures to lift sentiment or make the baht weaker than 34 to help exports," Mr Thanavath said.

The baht eased slightly to 33.78 per dollar on Thursday, hovering near 5-year lows.

One year after the coup, the junta has been unable to revive South-east Asia's second-largest economy, as exports and domestic demand remain weak. Growth last year was just 0.9 per cent.

Exports, equal to more than 60 per cent of gross domestic product, have long been sluggish due to soft global demand and low commodity prices, which have also cut farmers' spending power.

Private consumption, accounting for half of the economy, has been curbed by high household debt and a shaky consumer mood.

Last month, the Bank of Thailand cut its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.0 per cent from 3.8 per cent, with exports seen contracting for the third year.

The central bank's monetary policy committee left the benchmark rate steady at 1.50 per cent on June 10 after two surprise rate cuts in a row to support the economy.

The committee next reviews policy on Aug 5. Most economists expect no change for now.

Urai Panthawong, a toy vendor, said times were hard."Business is bad. The economy is bad. There are fewer customers these days."

REUTERS

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