Thai stock investor mood improves as mass vaccination starts

* Stock market expected to rise further this year

* Central bank seen keeping key rate at record low 0.5%

BANGKOK, June 7 (Reuters) - Investor confidence in Thai financial markets for the three months ahead has risen slightly on optimism over the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, a capital market association said on Monday.

The tourism-reliant country started its long-awaited mass vaccination drive on Monday and is preparing a phased reopening to vaccinated foreign visitors later this year, dependent on its progress with inoculations

A May survey by the Thai Capital Market Organizations (FETCO) showed its investor confidence index rose to 126.4 following a drop to 124.37 in April, when the latest, more severe outbreak emerged.

“The vaccination programme to help ease the COVID-19 situation is the most supportive factor, followed by an expected economic recovery and fund inflows,” federation chairman Paiboon Nalinthrangkurn told a briefing.

Thailand’s stock market has risen 12% so far this year to 1,621 points. Paiboon said it could reach 1,650 points by the end of the year, he said.

Foreign investors, however, have sold 62 billion baht ($2 billion) of Thai shares so far this year after dumping about 264 billion baht in the whole of 2020.

A separate survey by the Thai Bond Market Association showed the central bank at its next meeting on June 23 will likely keep its key interest rate at a record low of 0.50% again to support the economy, senior vice president Ariya Tiranaprakijor told the briefing.

The agency expects new corporate bond issuance of at least 750 billion baht in 2021 versus last year’s 684 billion baht.

The government’s new $16 billion borrowing plan to ease the outbreak impact should have a limited effect on the debt market as it has various options to raise funds, Ariya said ($1 = 31.1700 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Martin Petty)