Consumer confidence dips
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Consumer confidence dips

People walk past lanterns in front of Siam Paragon to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
People walk past lanterns in front of Siam Paragon to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Consumer sentiment dropped for the second straight month in January, hitting a nine-month low, as people grew concerned about a fresh surge of infections in the country.

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) reported yesterday the consumer confidence index fell to 47.8 from 50.1 in December, following readings of 52.4 in November, 50.9 for October, 50.2 for September, 51 for August, 50.1 for July, 49.2 for June, 48.2 for May and 47.2 for April in 2020.

Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the UTCC, said the drop for a second straight month in the consumer confidence index indicates that people remain concerned about overall economic prospects and their future employment in light of the unabated crisis in the country and worldwide.

"The fresh wave has adversely affected individuals' way of life as well as businesses in Thailand," he said.

"Even worse, retail oil prices in the country have climbed while the baht remains persistently strong."

Mr Thanavath said consumer spending would remain relatively low until the beginning of the second quarter, with a recovery expected if the government contains the pandemic spread and economic stimulus packages are successful.

Those packages include the 210-billion-baht Rao Chana (We Win) financial aid scheme, the second phase of the co-payment subsidy scheme worth 53 billion baht and the recently approved financial aid handouts to ease the plight of employees under the social security system's Section 33, worth 40 billion baht.

Mr Thanavath predicted the three economic stimulus packages would boost the country's economic growth by a combined 1.7% this year and help retain 600,000-900,000 jobs, especially in trading, transport and food.

The UTCC expects the unemployment rate to stay at 1-1.5% this year, with household debt at 84-85% of GDP.

The university maintained its GDP forecast at 2.8% growth for 2021.

According to Mr Thanavath, another factor that may affect future consumer sentiment is the domestic political situation.

"After the censure debate in the middle of February, we need to monitor the political situation to see whether it improves," he said.

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