Thailand baht edges up after coup

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Thailandbaht Reuters. A bank employee counts Thai baht notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok.

Hong Kong - Asian markets rose for a second straight day Friday following a positive lead from Wall Street, but Bangkok retreated after the army announced a coup following months of deadly protests.

The greenback made further inroads against the yen as improved sentiment led investors into higher yielding, riskier assets.

Tokyo climbed 0.87 percent, or 124.38 points, to 14,462.17, Sydney put on 0.23 percent, or 12.9 points, to 5,492.8 and Seoul was flat, edging up 1.58 points to 2,017.17.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was 0.16 percent higher and Shanghai added 0.39 percent.

Sentiment remains buoyant after Thursday's gains that were fuelled by a sharp improvement in Chinese manufacturing activity and positive comments about interest rates from the US Federal Reserve.

New York's main indexes ended higher following a mixed batch of indicators as the United States heads for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

IOL world currency1 Graphic: Renjith Krishnan.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims, a measure of the pace of layoffs, ticked up slightly from the previous week, while existing homes sales were 1.3 percent higher in April, the first month there has been a rise this year.

The Dow edged up 0.07 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq added 0.55 percent.

Dealers are keeping an eye on events in Thailand after the military seized power Thursday, declaring curbs on civil liberties and a nationwide night-time curfew that has already hit work at Japanese car giants Toyota and Honda.

It also ordered masses of rival demonstrators off Bangkok's streets that over the past seven months have seen deadly anti-government demonstrations.

The new junta headed by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Thursday the coup was staged “in order for the country to return to normal quickly”.

“All Thais must remain calm and government officials must work as normal,” he said in a brief televised address announcing the takeover, flanked by top military and police officials.

Concerns about the effect of the latest move on the economy were highlighted as Toyota and Honda said they had been forced to close their factories in the country in order to comply with the curfew.

On Friday military leaders summoned more than 100 prominent figures from rival political camps, including “Red Shirt” leaders, former police and military officers and politicians from the opposing parties.

However, Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics said the latest events could help the country in the short term.

“The coup reduces uncertainty about the immediate outlook and, in particular, the possibility that the political standoff would turn much more violent,” he said. “For these reasons it could actually be positive both for Thailand's economy and financial markets in the near term.”

In afternoon Friday trade the baht rose to 32.50 against the dollar from 32.54 on Thursday.

Although the economy shrank for the first time in two years in January-March, analysts say it has been largely immune to shocks - the nation has long been nicknamed “Teflon Thailand” for its record of resilience in the face of political upheaval.

While the stock market is down for the day it is still up more than six percent for 2014.

In other currency trade the dollar bought 101.74 yen compared with 101.72 yen in New York Thursday, while the euro was at 138.76

yen from 138.90 yen and $1.3647 against $1.3653.

There was little movement after Standard and Poor's said it had upgraded the credit ratings of Spain and Greece as the country's embark on economic reforms after their debt crises.

Oil prices edged up. The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in July, rose seven cents to $103.81 per barrel in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for July delivery gained four cents to $110.40.

Gold fetched $1,294.18 an ounce at 08:40 SA time compared with $1,296.27 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

- Taipei added 0.43 percent, or 38.59 points, to 9,008.22.

Smartphone maker HTC rose 1.22 percent to Tw$165.5 while Hon Hai was 1.09 percent higher at Tw$93.0.

- Wellington rose 0.44 percent, or 22.53 points, to 5,151.37.

Air New Zealand was up 1.15 percent at NZ$2.195 and Warehouse Group gained 0.29 percent to N$3.45. - Sapa-AFP



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