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Firms, govt take steps to minimise economic disruption

Economic authorities and businesses said yesterday that they were taking steps to ensure minimum disruption to businesses and individuals as a result of the anti-government Bangkok Shutdown, due to start today.

Though the ministries of Finance and Commerce will close their head offices today, business contacts are possible through their departments' offices, as their staff would work, including from home. The Energy Ministry said it had taken steps to ensure that all fuel stations within a 2-kilometre radius of the seven major rally sites can operate as usual.

In the aviation sector, Bangkok Airways will close its head office on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road from today through Wednesday, but all contacts via other channels are open. Thai Airways International, whose head office is on the same road, would maintain normal operations and passengers are urged to contact ticket offices on Larnluang and Silom roads as well as the office at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

On the availability of goods, Somchart Sroythong, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, yesterday urged all residents of the capital to avoid hoarding. He assured that there would be no shortages of goods, as inventories are currently able to satisfy a month's demand. He said the People's Democratic Reform Committee , which is organising the shutdown, had promised safe passage for delivery trucks.

Banks will keep open most of their branches. Establishing a communication link with commercial banks, the Bank of Thailand said it was confident that all lenders have emergency plans in place to handle the situation.

The baht and the Stock Exchange of Thailand Index are expected to weaken this week.

Foreign investors sold Thai shares worth a net Bt1.14 billion on Friday. Though they are net buyers to the tune of Bt2.955 billion so far this month, they sold over Bt40 billion net in December. At 1,255.45 points, the composite index has declined by 13.53 per cent in the past three months. Asset Plus Fund Management senior fund manager Supongvorn Mianpoka sees the possibility that the SET could fall to 1,200 points, due mainly to the domestic political upheaval. In the worst-case scenario, it should not breach the 1,150 point level, Supong-vorn said. In the best-case scenario, restored political stability would not bring the index above 1,500 points, given poor economic indicators.

Foreign investors have sold more than Bt3 billion worth of Thai bonds this month. Outflows weakened the baht to 33.06 per dollar on Friday, the lowest level since 2010. Kasikorn Research Centre expects the baht to move in the range of 32.95-33.30 this week. While the "Bangkok shutdown" must be closely monitored, some economic indicators in the US could also influence the exchange rate.


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