Thai Baht at Crossroads as Economy Seen Bottoming Out This Year
Thai 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht banknotes issued by the Bank Of Thailand. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Thai Baht at Crossroads as Economy Seen Bottoming Out This Year

Thailand’s baht could be at a turning point. It’s the second-worst performing currency in Asia this year, but expectations that the economy may bottom out over the next few months are spurring some bullish bets.

The baht lost ground as Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy was hit hard by travel restrictions to control the coronavirus spread. It’s down almost 4% against the dollar this year, just behind the Indonesian rupiah. Though, it’s showing signs of revival with gains of 0.5% in August.

Some analysts are turning bullish after Thailand’s Finance Minister Predee Daochai said last week the economy will likely bottom out in the second half of the year and rebound in 2021. Current account data this week could also be supportive as it’s forecast to post a surplus of $1 billion in July from a deficit of $247 million in the previous month.

“Over a thee-month horizon, we think it will outperform its Asian peers,” says Divya Devesh, head of Asean & South-Asia FX research at Standard Chartered Bank SG Ltd in Singapore. He sees the nation’s status as a major gold exporter and positive real yields attracting inflows.

Thai Baht at Crossroads as Economy Seen Bottoming Out This Year

The baht’s misfortune is a dramatic swing from last year, when it was the region’s best performer with an 8.6% gain. While the economic recovery prospects bode well for the currency, the Bank of Thailand has indicated in its latest meeting minutes that that it will act if needed to prevent a rapid appreciation.

The baht also remains vulnerable to outflows. Thailand’s Government Pension Fund, a 1 trillion baht ($32 billion) asset manager, plans to boost its overseas investments citing limited options in domestic equities.

Technically, the baht remains in consolidation mode as the dueling forces battle it out. The currency pair’s 100 day moving average continues to cap any rally against the dollar, while support under 31.00 is limiting any downside movement.

Below are the key Asian economic data and events due this week:

  • Monday, Aug. 31: Thailand July BoP current account balance and trade balance, Australia 2Q inventories and company operating profit, New Zealand business confidence, Japan industrial production, retail sales and consumer confidence, China manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMI, South Korea industrial production, India 2Q GDP
  • Tuesday, Sept. 1: RBA rate decision, Australia building approvals and 2Q BoP current account balance and net exports of GDP, New Zealand building permits, Japan jobless rate, manufacturing PMI and 2Q capital spending and company profits, China Caixin manufacturing PMI, South Korea trade balance and 2Q GDP, Indonesia CPI, Thailand business sentiment index
  • Wednesday, Sept. 2: Australian 2Q GDP, New Zealand 2Q terms of trade, South Korea CPI
  • Thursday, Sept. 3: Australia trade balance, Japan services PMI, China services PMI
  • Friday, Sept. 4: Australia retail sales, New Zealand 2Q volume of all buildings, South Korea BoP current account balance, Philippines CPI and unemployment rate

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