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Thai industries sentiment picks up in Feb as virus curbs ease

* Industries sentiment rises for 3rd straight month

* Easing restrictions, vaccines a boost

* Commerce confidence at record low on weak tourism

BANGKOK, March 18 (Reuters) - Thailand’s industries sentiment picked up for the first time in three months in February after restrictions to contain a recent coronavirus outbreak were eased, the Federation of Thai Industries said on Thursday.

The FTI’s Thai industries sentiment index rose to 85.1 last month after hitting a six-month low of 83.5 in January, it said.

“The manufacturing increased on higher demand at home and abroad, supported by easing COVID-19 containment measures, FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree told a news conference.

Sentiment was also lifted by government stimulus measures and increased export orders on higher global demand, he said.

Thailand’s exports, a key driver of its growth, are expected to rise 4% this year after declining 6% last year, according to the commerce ministry.

The group’s index projecting sentiment over the next three months also increased, Supant said, adding the country’s coronavirus vaccine distribution was also a boost as its immunisation campaign started last month.

However, the confidence of the Thai Chamber of Commerce hit a record low in February, dented by long sluggish tourism, Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told a separate briefing.

“The business sector felt the outlook for the economy is not bright as tourism is completely quiet,” he said.

The tourism-reliant country has yet to remove its strict entry curbs which contributed to an 83% reduction in foreign tourists last year from the nearly 40 million arrivals in 2019.

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty

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