Analysts say the massacre at Siam Paragon in Bangkok compounds the negative effects of rising interest rates and concerns about government expenditures, which have already damaged Thai assets and dampened expectations for the country’s economic recovery.
As investors considered the potential for a negative reaction to the incident from China, the country’s largest source of visitors, tourism stocks dropped 1.6% shortly after the Stock Exchange of Thailand opened on Wednesday, before gradually recovering.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavasin promised to increase preventative steps to safeguard tourists. Even before Tuesday’s killing, which killed a Chinese woman who was visiting Siam Paragon with her two young daughters, this was a major fear of Chinese tourists. A young Myanmarese mall worker was the other victim.
On Wednesday, the SET Index dropped to a low of 1,431.96 before gradually rising again. A stronger dollar has pushed the baht to an 11-month low above 37 to the US dollar, while the benchmark index is at its lowest since January 2021.
About 60 billion baht has left the Thai stock and bond markets since the beginning of September, and the selling pressure from abroad reached a climax last week when the country unexpectedly raised interest rates. So far this year, foreign investors have been net sellers of 162 billion baht on the SET.
Bangkok Shooting a blow to the economy
Investors are concerned about how much additional debt the new Pheu Thai government can take on in light of its large fiscal spending plans. According to LSEG statistics, rates on Thai 10-year government bonds have risen by 75 basis points in just over three weeks, a higher increase than that seen in US Treasuries.
The Thai bond market has relatively low liquidity and is experiencing consistent selling. Toreck Horchani, head of prime brokerage dealing at Maybank Securities in Singapore, has commented on the current market conditions, noting that bid/offer spreads are high and that it is impossible to get anything done.
“The market was expecting no hike,” he explained.
Last week, the Bank of Thailand unexpectedly increased interest rates, citing an expected uptick in growth and inflation. This could pave the way for further increases. It is worried that government expenditure will lead to higher prices.
Since then, shares have dropped sharply, falling by more than 8% since August’s end. This decline is more severe than the 5% drop in the MSCI Emerging Markets Asia index during the same time period. The region’s largest equities outflows in September were from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Despite government promises to restore tourist confidence in the wake of Tuesday’s massacre, investors dropped shares in Central Plaza Hotel and Airports of Thailand early Wednesday, sending the latter to a seven-month low.
Normally, a rise in interest rates would strengthen the baht, but the recent increase in US interest rates, along with a selloff in global bonds, has caused the baht to fall by more than 2% against the dollar in only the past week.
Digital wallet scheme
Chintana Kittiviboolmas, UOB’s head of global markets in Thailand, blamed “aggressive offshore buying (of dollars)” for the situation, with rising fresh worries about the government’s financial strategy adding to the strain.
The Pheu Thai government is still figuring out the specifics of how they would pay for Mr. Srettha’s pledge to pump 560 billion baht into the economy through a digital wallet scheme in the coming year.
The proposals, which include subsidies for gasoline and agriculture, seem at contrast with the central bank’s efforts to curb inflation, and investors are worried about the prospect of increased supply in a declining bond market.
“In this backdrop there needs to be much greater (not less) monetary and fiscal coordination,” Aninda Mitra, head of Asia macro and investment strategy at BNY Mellon Investment Management, said. “The sell-off in the baht appears to be the casualty of the market sensing this policy disconnect.”
Positive growth projections and expectations for the tourism industry’s revival are still present.
The head of macro strategy and Asia-Pacific developing markets research at BNP Paribas in Singapore, Siddharth Mathur, is a baht bull who thinks there are concerns in the medium term.
Despite anticipation of a large influx of Chinese travellers for the Golden Week holiday, Mathur added, “the seasonal improvement in tourism is not due until November.”
We anticipate a smaller increase in the current account surplus due to increased energy import prices and government spending plans, he said. That, in turn, makes the Thai baht vulnerable to the overall strength of the US dollar.
Teen suspect held on murder charges over Bangkok shopping mall
Meanwhile, a 14-year-old boy has been remanded to a juvenile detention institute for psychiatric evaluation after being charged with murder and other offences in connection with the shootings at Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok, Thailand.
On Wednesday, a day after a shooting spree at a Bangkok shopping mall left two people dead and five more wounded, the kid appeared in Juvenile Court under heavy police protection and with his face masked to protect his identity.
Due to the lack of evidence, the court ruled against transferring the suspect to a mental hospital. Tuesday’s arresting officers claimed he was too “confused” to provide a clear account of what happened and that he claimed to have heard voices urging him to kill people.
Police have initially charged the teen with five crimes: first-degree murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, unlawful carrying of a weapon, and discharging a firearm in a public place.
Metropolitan Police Division 6 Commander Pol Maj Gen Nakharin Sukhonthawit has stated that additional charges may be filed at a later date.
He also mentioned that investigators were thinking about filing Child Protection Act charges against the boy’s parents.
He stated that the suspect’s room at the Lak Song area residence had yielded a BB gun and numerous shells. The detectives would treat that as a separate investigation.
After a teenage shooter went on a shooting spree inside Siam Paragon in Pathumwan district just before evening rush hours on Tuesday, police quickly located and apprehended the suspect.
A Chinese mother of twins, 34, who was shopping at the mall with her daughters and a young Myanmarese employee were both slain. Two of the five people injured were in critical condition; three Thais, a Chinese, and a Laotian. People panicked and ran out of the mall.
On Wednesday, the head of the Department of Medical Services, Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, claimed that the juvenile suspect had been treated at the children’s hospital, The Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, around a year ago. He would not elaborate, citing patient privacy concerns. He also mentioned that the youngster may have gone to other medical facilities for help.
Dr. Thongchai was addressing rumours that the suspect had received mental health care at Rajavithi Hospital in the past.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin promised “preventive measures” in the wake of the mall shooting.