March consumer sentiment hits record low as virus impact deepens

March consumer sentiment hits record low as virus impact deepens

Consumer confidence tumbled to a record low in March, a university survey showed on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic hurt economic activity and spending.

The consumer confidence index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce plunged to 50.3 in March from 64.8 the previous month, for the lowest reading since the survey began in October 1998 during the Asian financial crisis.

The impact of Covid-19 on Thailand is at least "as severe as" the Asian financial crisis, university president Thanavath Phonvichai told a briefing.

The economic impact could reach 1.5 trillion baht in the first half, with tourism and consumption taking a hit, he said.

The economy might shrink 4% to 6% this year to stand at its weakest since 1998, with a technical recession expected in the second quarter, Mr Thanavath said.

The government's $58-billion economic package will help, but consumer spending will remain weak for months, he added.

Thailand, with 2,423 infections and 32 deaths since its virus outbreak began in January, has imposed a night curfew nationwide, after having closed malls to limit the spread. 

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