Rapidly stronger baht worries Thai central bank governor, finance minister


Bank of Thailand (BoT) Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul expressed concern last week at the rapidly appreciating Thai currency during the past two days but refused to commit regarding whether an intervention in the currency markets is underway.

He said the stronger Thai baht compared to the US dollar is a consequence of short-term foreign investment in Thai bonds and the stock market through financial institutions – a signal of profit-taking by foreign investors.

The BoT governor warned foreign exchange investors to be extra cautious, giving assurances that the central bank is armed with measures to stem the baht appreciation which will be implemented when necessary.

The Thai currency is not that strong at the moment, he said. He refused to disclose if the bank will intervene, but said that Thai currency should move in tandem with the fundamentals and market mechanisms unless it has a negative impact on the country.

“There is cost in every intervention. We are closely monitoring the situation. It gains strength quite rapidly in the last two days,” he said. “We have the mechanism but I’m not saying that we won’t use it. We will if it’s good for the Thai currency.”

He indicated that the Thai baht’s movement, though significantly strong, is in the same direction as Asian and regional currencies, adding that it is natural that a currency is alternately strong and weak.

“The strengthening of Thai baht was less than regional currencies last year but it is much stronger (compared to regional currencies) since early this year. It reflects investors’ indifference to foreign risk factors,” he said.

Calling on the private sector to be prepared for possible fluctuations arising from changing risk factors, Prasarn said BoT officials regularly meet with the Federation of Thai Industries and Thai Chamber of Commerce given Thai exporters’ unequal capabilities in adjusting to the situation.

The BoT governor said the stronger Thai baht has been a boon to heavy machinery imports for infrastructure development while foreign investments have increased with a value of US$20 billion in direct investment and US$8-9 billion through investment portfolios.

Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong admitted that the rapid strengthening of the baht, at the daily rate of Bt.20, is not a positive sign and does not reflect the genuine economic situation.

He called on state agencies responsible for the country’s economy to ensure that the Thai currency does not gain strength to an extent of impacting Thailand’s export sector.