Thai Central Bank Says Impact of Strong Baht Small, Ready to Act on Excessive Moves


JUNE 19, 2017

Bangkok. Thailand's strong baht currency , now hovering near two-year highs against the dollar, has not hit tourism and has had only limited impact on exports, a Bank of Thailand official said on Friday (16/06).

The baht is still moving in line with Thailand's economic fundamentals and regional currencies, assistant governor Vachira Arromdee, who leads the central bank's financial markets operations group, told Reuters in an interview.

The central bank does not target specific levels of the baht, but is ready to act on any excessive moves in the currency, she added.

"We don't look at [baht] levels but whether its moves are in line with economic fundamentals and regional peers."

The economies of trading partners are more crucial to Thai exports than exchange rates, Vachira said.

"There may be some impact on exporters' profit margins but not much," she said. "But GDPs of trading partners are much more important and whether our exports are competitive."

Overall, the baht's strength has not had any impact on tourism, as visitor numbers are still increasing, Vachira said.

Exports are worth about two-thirds of Thailand's economic output, while tourism accounts for more than 10 percent. Still, growth in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy has lagged regional peers in recent years.

The baht traded at 33.95 to the dollar on Friday, having appreciated by 5.5 percent against the greenback this year, becoming Southeast Asia's best performing currency.

Asked if the BOT was worried about being added to the U.S. trade watch list, Vachira said: "We are not the United States' major trade partner."

Thailand has attracted foreign fund inflows of about $3 billion in bonds and stocks, thanks to its economic stability with a current account surplus and low foreign debt, she said.

"We are closely monitoring short-term fund inflows and have tools to handle them if they cause market volatility," she said, without elaborating on what instruments would be used.

Since April, the BOT has cut the size of weekly bond issues in a bid to discourage short-term capital inflows.

The BOT this month relaxed foreign exchange rules to make it easier to do business.

Thailand is treading carefully after adopting draconian capital controls in 2006 that tarnished its reputation and triggered a 15 percent stock market plunge, but were later scrapped.