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Consumer confidence falls in April, seen weak


May 15, 2008

Consumer confidence falls in April, seen weak

Thai consumer confidence in the economy dropped in April, snapping five straight months of rises, due to higher oil prices and concerns about political stability, Reuters reported quoting a survey Thursday.

The confidence index fell to 73.0 in April from a 14-month peak of 73.8 in March, and it could fall further if high prices and political uncertainty linger, analysts said. The index weakened despite government stimulus measures to boost consumption and investment, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

"All indices fell for the first time in six months in April as oil prices pushed up living costs and consumers started losing confidence again," the university said.

Thai inflation hit a two-year high of 6.2 percent in April due to the rising cost of food and fuel.  Political issues also weighed on consumer confidence. An attempt by the government to amend the constitution sparked rumours of renewed instability.

Thailand returned to democracy in December after a bloodless coup in 2006.  "Looking at what happened in April, you would see there were concerns about political stability. People were talking about the constitution, the coup, etc," Tisco Securities economist Aksarapak Wongcharoen said.

Another index from the university, which projects confidence over the next six months, also fell to 80.5 in April, ending eight straight months of increases. It hit a 16-month high of 81.1 in March.

All indices remained below 100, indicating confidence remained weak and consumers were still worried about the economy and employment, the university said. "If what the government has implemented does not work out practically or there is still confusion over how the political front will end, we could see the index falling again,"
Aksarapak said.

The government has made economic growth a top priority, introducing stimulus measures to boost demand and investment as well as promising big spending and accelerated large infrastructure projects. It expects the economy to grow 6 percent this year after 4.8 percent last year.

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