SET index up 16.49 points

SET index up 16.49 points

Thai stocks rose more than 1% on Friday, continuing their recovery from the panic selling induced late last week by reports of tighter controls on margin trading.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index rose 16.49 points or 1.07% to close at 1,561.06, an increase of 5.5% from the previous Friday's close of 1,478.97. Turnover was 50.48 billion baht, with 11.82 billion shares traded.

The low turnover reflected the fact that many markets in Asia and elsewhere were closed for the Good Friday holiday. Local market sentiment was helped by the release of a new Finance Ministry forecast that Thailand's GDP would expand by 5.3% this year, compared with 5% in an earlier forecast.

The local market is up 12.2% from the end of 2012.

Market officials confirmed earlier this week that stock investors who trade through cash accounts will have to increase collateral value to 20% of their credit lines from 15% now, starting on May 2.

However, the impact of the announcement was limited as the news had already been priced in following the big sell-off on March 22, said analysts.

Foreign investors were net buyers on Friday of 687.88 million baht worth of Thai shares. Local institutions were net sellers of 809.4 million baht and brokers sold 2.78 million. Individual investors were net buyers of 124.3 million baht.  

Foreign investors closed out the month as net buyers of 6.96 billion baht, putting their net-buy position for the first quarter at 4.61 billion. Individual investors were net sellers of 17.3 billion baht in March and of 32.2 billion for the year to date.

Elsewhere in Asia, stock markets were mostly higher on Friday as momentum carried over from yet another record high on Wall Street.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index closed at its highest level ever Thursday, driven by more encouraging data on the US economic recovery, notably stronger business investment and exports.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.6% to 2,004.89. Taiwan's Taiex advanced 0.7% to 7,918.61. Markets in Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore were closed for Good Friday. Markets in the Europe and the United States also were closed.

Japan's Nikkei reversed early losses to rise 0.5% and close at 12,397.91. Gains were muted, however, as the yen levelled off against the dollar and the government released figures for February showing the jobless rate edging up while industrial production fell slightly.

In Bangkok, the SET50 index of blue chips ended at 1,024.92 points, up 9.94 points, with total trade value of 19.22 billion baht. The SETHD index of high-dividend shares rose 10.89 points to 1,266.78, with turnover of 8.76 billion baht. The Market for Alternative Investment gained 9.90 points to 484.28, with transaction value of 3.43 billion baht.

The five most active shares by value were True Corp, rising 10 satang to 8.20 baht; the Skytrain operator BTS, up 30 satang to 9.40 baht; Tipco Foods, down 1.40 to 14.30 baht; Solartron (SOLAR), up one baht to 8.90; and the contractor Ch. Karnchang (CK), up 1.30 to 25.50 baht.

In the currency markets, the baht snapped a five-week rally on concern that the central bank will curb exchange-rate gains to protect exporters.

The Finance Ministry on Friday reduced its forecast for export growth in dollar terms to 9% this year, from 10.5%, partly because of the baht's strength.

The baht may average 29.4 to the US dollar in 2013 compared with 31.1 last year, the ministry forecast.

The baht also weakened marginally on Friday as local units of companies based in Japan, the biggest foreign investor in Thailand, were repatriating profits before the Japanese fiscal year ends on March 31.

Export value decreased 5.8% year-on-year in February, according to data released Thursday, while imports climbed 5.3%, resulting in a trade deficit of $1.6 billion.

Recent appreciation in the baht, which reached the strongest level since 1997 on March 20, has been excessive, Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said on March 20.

"After a sharp appreciation last week and with concerns expressed by authorities, there was speculation about possible intervention," said Kozo Hasegawa, a foreign-exchange trader in Bangkok at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

"There have been some corporate flows in the past few days as we approach the fiscal year-end for Japan."

The baht was trading late Friday in Bangkok at 29.28/30 per dollar, compared with 29.27/30 on Thursday and 29.28/31 a week earlier.

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