Thai stocks dive nearly 5% amid concerns for king

The Stock Exchange of Thailand suffered nearly a 5% loss by midday Thursday, bucking the upward momentum of bourses around the world, on rumours that the king’s health has taken a turn for the worse.

Thai markets continued to take a battering Thursday. By midday, Thailand’s SET (Stock Exchange of Thailand) index - the country’s main stock exchange - had fallen off by 5%.

This was preceded by a 2% drop Wednesday, which at the time was its biggest drop in two months. The Baht, the Thai currency, is now at its lowest point against the US dollar since June. The reason for all these woes? A rumour that the health of King Rama IX is in steady decline.

The 81-year-old monarch has no constitutional powers, he is, however, considered a central and unifying symbol in Thai society. The King has been in hospital since September 19.
Reassuring statements have been issued by the royal palace and the president of the SETs efforts to calm fears have done nothing to quell the rumours – or to resuscitate the market, for that matter.
“Foreign investors are continuing to sell their blue-chip stocks based on these very rumours,” said Pichai Lertsupongkit, vice president of Thanachart Securities, to AFP.

The demise of the king would profoundly affect the nation at every level. Sébastien Barbe of Calyon Bank, observed, “The foundations of Thai politics have been on shaky ground for the past four years, and the king played an essential role in lifting the nation out of political incertitude.”

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