SET index rises 0.23 point

Thai stocks were little changed on Friday amid thin turnover even as other Asian markets rose in response to stronger economic indicators from the US.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index rose 0.23 point or 0.02% from Thursday to close at 1,304.21, a decline of 0.6% from the previous week. Turnover was only 21.08 billion baht, well below the 2013 daily average of 48 billion, with 5.89 billion shares traded.

Foreign investors were net buyers on Friday of 443.65 million baht worth of Thai shares but are net sellers for the month of 18.7 billion baht. For the year to date they are net sellers of 32.4 billion baht.

Local institutions were net sellers of 565.9 million baht and brokers sold 1.2 billion. Individual investors were net buyers of 1.34 billion baht. 

Most major world markets made small gains on Friday after strong expansion in US manufacturing offset concern about weak factory data from China.

Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.4% in early trade while the DAX in Germany and the CAC 40 in France were up 0.1%. US stocks were poised to rise. Dow futures were up 0.2% and broader S&P futures gained 0.1%.

Japanese stocks jumped as the central bank signalled its monetary stimulus could continue for longer than the two years anticipated by markets.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 2.9% higher at 14,865.67 after the Bank of Japan released minutes of its January policy meeting. Board members said the BoJ needed "to provide a clear explanation that it did not strictly set [the stimulus] to end in two years", according to Kyodo news agency.

Asian markets ended mostly higher, with South Korea's Kospi gaining 1.4% to close at 1,957.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.8% to 22,568.24 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5% to 5,438.70.

The Shanghai Composite dropped 1.2% to 2,113.69. The yuan has been steadily strengthening in recent years but this week is down about 0.4%, as the factory survey intensified concerns about China's economy.

In Bangkok, the SET50 index of blue chips ended at 883.06 points, down 0.24, with total trade value of 15.66 billion baht. The SETHD index of high-dividend shares rose 4.45 points to 1,069.87, with turnover of 11.4 billion baht. The Market for Alternative Investment gained 1.91 points to 373.52, with transaction value of 721.56 million baht.

The five most active shares by value were ADVANC, down 1 baht to 210; JAS, unchanged at 7.70; INTUCH, down 25 satang to 72 baht; AOT, up 1 baht to 184; and PTTEP, up 1.50 baht to 153 baht.

In the currency markets,the baht was little changed from a week earlier despite concern that prolonged political turmoil will deepen an economic slowdown.

The economy grew by only 2.9% last year, slowing from 6.5% in 2012.

The baht was trading late Friday in Bangkok at 32.53 to the dollar, compared with 32.56/61 on Thursday and 32.56/59 a week earlier.

Credit Agricole CIB economist Dariusz Kowalczyk on Friday advised investors to sell the baht against the dollar before the weekend as farmers' protests threatened to intensify.

"The risk of further instability over the weekend is high," he wrote.

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