SET falls 1 point to 1,456.02

Thai stocks declined marginally on Friday amid weak global sentiment and despite signs of economic improvement in China.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index fell 1.00 point from Thursday to close at 1,456.02, a decrease of 0.1% from the previous Friday's close of 1,458.02. Turnover was 52.68 billion baht, with 11.38 billion shares traded.

The local market is up 12.1% from the end of 2013.

Foreign investors were net sellers on Friday of 1.02 billion baht worth of Thai shares, reducing their net buying position for the month to 6 billion baht. For the year to date they are net sellers of 34.6 billion baht.

Local institutions were net buyers of 809.38 million baht and retain investors bought 644.22 million. Brokers were net sellers of 435.58 million baht.

Most world stock markets fell on Friday after poor US retail sales data but benchmarks in China gained as manufacturing figures stoked optimism about the economy. However, investors are growing increasingly concerned about the threat of a new civil war in Iraq.

Chinese industrial production rose 8.8% in May, in line with forecasts, while retail sales grew faster and fixed-asset investment expanded at a slower pace.

The latest numbers fuelled hopes that recent mini-stimulus measures by authorities will prevent the economy from slowing too sharply.

In early European trading, France's CAC 40 slipped 0.4%, Germany's DAX lost 0.6% and Britain's FTSE 100 was off 0.5%. On Wall Street ahead of the opening, Dow and S&P 500 futures were little changed.

Official US data showed consumer spending increased less than expected in May while unemployment benefit applications rose.

In Iraq, Islamic militants vowed to march on Baghdad after pushing deep into parts of the country's Sunni heartland previously controlled by US forces.

"For traders often jaded by seemingly constant news of potential geopolitical risks, the situation in Iraq looks a real concern," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

In Asian markets, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 recouped earlier losses to close 0.8% higher at 15,097.84. South Korea's Kospi lost 1% to end at 1,990.85. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.6% to 23,319.17 and the Shanghai Composite added 0.9% to 2,070.71. Australia's S&P/ASX lost 0.4% to 5,405.10.

In Bangkok, the SET50 index of blue chips ended at 977.89 points, down 1.39, on turnover of 29.16 billion baht, and the SET100 shed 3.13 points to 2,157.02 in trade worth 38.94 billion. The SETHD index of high-dividend shares dropped 1.74 points to 1,154.09, with turnover of 11.05 billion baht. The Market for Alternative Investment gained 4.42 points to 494.37, with transaction value of 1.55 billion baht.

In the currency markets, the baht rose and erased the losses recorded since the May 22 coup, as a planned pickup in government spending helped attract overseas funds.

Global funds had pumped $561 million into Thai stocks and bonds this month through Thursday, after being net sellers of $2.24 billion in May.

"With the military coup, the perception is there’s a bit of stabilisation," said Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist at Mizuho Bank in Singapore, calling it a "buyback opportunity" for the baht.

The baht was trading late Friday in Bangkok at 32.39/41 to the dollar, compared with 32.44/46 on Thursday and 32.56/58 a week earlier.  

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