Thai stock investor confidence improves but new COVID-19 wave drags

BANGKOK, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Investor confidence in Thai financial markets over the next three months has improved slightly on optimism over vaccines and capital inflows, but has been capped by a new wave of coronavirus cases, a capital market association said on Tuesday.

A survey in January by the Thai Capital Market Organizations (FETCO) showed its investor confidence index was at 132.6 after falling to 130.6 in December, when the new COVID-19 cases emerged.

“Thailand’s selling points this year are vaccines, fund inflows and a recovery in corporate earnings,” Federation chairman Paiboon Nalinthrangkurn told a briefing, noting the index was still in the bullish zone.

Fund inflows are expected to return in the second half of this year as corporate earnings outperform in line with a slow recovery in Thailand’s tourism-driven economy and sectors linked to the global economy, he said.

The Thai stock market has gained 2.5% so far this year after falling 8.3% in 2020, with foreign investors selling a net 278 billion baht ($9.3 billion) of shares since the start of 2020.

Thailand had largely controlled COVID-19 cases by mid-2020 but economists worry the second wave of infections will further dampen domestic activity and tourism.

The country aims to vaccinate 19 million people against the coronavirus in a first phase of inoculations starting later this month.

A separate survey by the Thai Bond Market Association showed the central bank is expected to hold its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.50% for the rest of 2021, senior vice president, Ariya Tiranaprakijor, told the briefing.

The central bank next policy review is on Wednesday, and most economists have predicted no policy change. ($1 = 29.99 baht) (Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Orathai Sriring Editing by Ed Davies)