Thai stocks jump on hopes for political resolution
By STEPHEN WRIGHT,AP Business Writer AP - 52 minutes ago
BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's stock market jumped Friday as investors bet that a resolution may be reached soon in a political crisis that escalated this week with anti-government protesters shutting down Bangkok's two airports.
Analysts said the months-long political turmoil, which has sometimes erupted into deadly violence, could possibly end with the military seizing power over the weekend, restoring a semblance of stability after prolonged uncertainty.
Political tension has intensified since late May, weighing on the economy, which grew at its slowest pace in three years in the latest quarter. Protesters want to unseat the current prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, whom they claim is a puppet of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
"Investors are expecting a resolution this weekend. It could be a coup d'etat, which the market seems to like better than the current mess dragging on, although it's not the best outcome," said Poramet Tongbua, head of research at Tisco Securities in Bangkok.
The benchmark Stock Exchange of Thailand index rose 12.03 points, or 3.1 percent, to close at 401.84 Friday. The index has slumped 54 percent since late May, when anti-government street protests began in the capital Bangkok.
Protesters occupied Bangkok's two airports for several days this week, severing the capital's civilian air links with the outside world and dealing a massive blow to an already slowing economy. Suvarnabumi, Thailand's main international gateway, is a vital regional air hub that handles 3 percent of world air cargo and 100,000 travelers a day.
The government has declared a limited state of emergency at the airports but Friday appeared to back away from a threat to use force to disperse the protesters, led by a group calling itself the People's Alliance for Democracy, or PAD.
Army chief Anupong Paochinda has said the government should call new elections to resolve the crisis.
"Local investors seemed to be buying up the market late Friday, hoping for a resolution to the found over the weekend and the airport to reopen," said Asia Plus Securities in a report. "It's very sad to say, but we are now for some kind of military intervention. Both the government and the PAD have too much at stake now and are unlikely to back down of their own accord."
The army, which has consistently denied planning a coup, last staged a coup in September 2006, ousting Thaksin, a billionaire businessman turned populist politician.
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