SET index drops 2.81 points

Thai stocks slipped 0.2% on Friday as investors braced for widespread protests in Bangkok on Monday, while Asian trade was muted because of weak export data from China.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index fell 2.81 points from Thursday to close at 1,255.45, an increase of 2.5% from the previous Friday's close of 1,224.62. Turnover was 29.19 billion baht, with 4.27 billion shares traded.

The local market to date is down 2.3% from the end of 2013.

Foreign investors were net sellers on Friday of 1.13 billion baht worth of Thai shares but remain net buyers for the month of 2.95 billion baht.

Local institutions were net buyers of 1.12 billion baht but are net sellers of 3.7 billion so far in January. Brokers were net buyers of 575.3 million baht, and individual investors were net sellers of 565.8 million baht. 

Asian stock markets were cautious on Friday after a slowdown in China's exports dimmed sentiment, while European stocks gained ground ahead of a US jobs report.

Japan's Nikkei closed with a slight gain of 0.2% to 15,912.06 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3% to 22,846.25. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.4% to 1,938.54 and the Shanghai Composite shed 0.7% to 2,103.30. India's Sensex rose by 0.3% to 20,783.99.

Market participants were awaiting the US government jobs report for December due later on Friday. Economists estimate employers added 196,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained at 7%.

The strength of the report could shift expectations about how quickly the Federal Reserve reduces its economic stimulus.

European stocks regained some ground after taking a hit the previous day on the European Central Bank's decision to leave interest rates unchanged.

Germany's DAX was up 0.5% in early trading, Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.7% and France's CAC gained 0.6% to 4,248.84.

Futures augured gains on Wall Street, with Dow futures up 0.2% and S&P 500 futures ahead by 0.3%.

In Bangkok, the SET50 index of blue chips ended at 858.25 points, down 1.75 points, with total trade value of 22.19 billion baht. The SETHD index of high-dividend shares rose 4.99 points to 1,058.98, with turnover of 7.11 billion baht. The Market for Alternative Investment lost 1.55 points to 338.37, with transaction value of 445.8 million baht.

The five most active shares by value were ADVANC, down 3.50 baht to 199.50; KBANK, down 1.50 baht to 160; PTTGC, down 2 baht to 75; CPALL, down 1.25 baht to 39.75; and SCB, down 50 satang to 141.50 baht.

In the currency markets, the baht continued to trade near its 2010 low as investors counted the possible costs of the Bangkok shutdown planned by anti-government protesters on Monday.

The baht was trading late Friday in Bangkok at 33.02/06 to the dollar, unchanged from Thursday and down from 33.00/02 a week earlier and 32.86/88 at the end of 2013.

Bond yields rose the most since November as global funds have pulled a net $129 million from the local debt market so far this month.

Local political unrest as well as the US Federal Reserve's stimulus reduction may extend outflows, Bank of Thailand deputy governor Pongpen Ruengvirayudh said on Thursday.

"While the Fed's tapering is weighing on emerging-market assets as a whole, Thailand is seeing more downward pressure due to the unrest," said Koji Fukaya, CEO of FPG Securities Co in Tokyo.

"The baht and the Thai assets look relatively weak, and the outlook is bearish for the time being."

The yield on the 3.625% debt due in June 2023 climbed 16 basis points from a week ago to 4.05%.

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