1. Bank of Thailand’s hawkish tilt adds another tailwind for baht. The Bank of Thailand is giving the baht — the most-loved emerging-market currency this month — one more reason to keep up its outperformance. Piggybacking on a strong current-account surplus, the baht has braved developing-market doldrums and topped returns among 24 currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It is also the sole gainer in Asia this quarter. As investors await the Aug 31 release of Thailand’s latest balance of payments data, a recent hawkish tilt by the central bank is adding to the currency’s allure. (Bloomberg, 26/08/18)
  2. Govt courts Chinese cash. The government is stepping up its efforts to attract Chinese investors with its development of infrastructure and services to connect with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is designed to correspond with Chinese initiatives along the north-south and east-west economic corridors, said Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office. (Bangkok Post, 26/08/18)
  3. Thai Niyom scheme comes under scrutiny. The state-funded Thai Niyom Yangyuen (Sustainable Thainess) programme is gathering steam as the disbursement of a budget of nearly Bt100bn has now come under close scrutiny, particularly the nationwide distribution of a grant of Bt200,000 per village and community. Critics say the government’s new development programme is aimed at scoring political points to help Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to reclaim premiership after the next general election tentatively scheduled to take place on Feb 24 next year, though politicians from two major parties — Pheu Thai and the Democrats — are confident the campaign will have little impact on their support bases. (Bangkok Post, 26/08/18)
  4. NCPO to allow parties limited political activities. The National Council for Peace and Order has approved the partial lifting of the ban on political activities, with an official announcement to be issued shortly, NCPO deputy chief Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn said on Tuesday. (Bangkok Post, 28/08/18) )
  5. Graft body heaps praise on Prayut, citing savings. Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha deserve top marks on anti-corruption, according to the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) which said it has saved 25 per cent of the national budget in the seven years of its operations. (The Nation, 30/08/18)
  6. As debt levels rise, more Thais struggle to keep up. With a debt mountain of 12.17 trillion baht at the end of March, the equivalent of 77.6% of gross domestic product, Thai households are among the biggest borrowers in Asia and they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with payments. In addition, their debt pain could increase because the central bank has signaled it is likely to follow other central banks around the world and raise interest rates from near-record lows. (Reuters, 30/08/18)
  7. Iran to open lawsuit against US sanctions at ICJ. Iran will argue Monday against renewed sanctions imposed by the United States, as a bitter legal battle between Tehran and Washington opens before the UN’s top court. US President Donald Trump reimposed a wave of tough unilateral sanctions on Iran three weeks ago, bringing back into effect harsh penalties that had been lifted under a landmark 2015 agreement. A second round of measures is to come into effect in early November, targeting Iran’s valuable oil and energy sector. (AFP, 27/08/18)
  8. U.S. consumer confidence races to near 18-year high. U.S. consumer confidence surged to near an 18-year high in August, as households remained upbeat on the labor market, pointing to strong consumer spending that should help to sustain the economy for the remainder of the year. The bright economic outlook, however, was dimmed somewhat by other data on Tuesday showing the goods trade deficit widened sharply in July as exports of agricultural products tumbled, indicating trade could be a drag on growth in the third quarter. (Reuters, 28/08/18)
  9. Canada rejoins talks to stay in NAFTA, deal possible this week. Canada’s top trade negotiator joins her Mexican and U.S. counterparts in Washington on Tuesday in a bid to remain part of a revamped trilateral North American trade pact, as U.S. officials expressed optimism a deal could be reached this week. But Ottawa will be under pressure to accept new terms on autos trade, dispute settlement and intellectual property rules after the United States and Mexico agreed on Monday to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (Reuters, 28/08/18)
  10. Argentina’s central bank hikes rates to 60% as the currency collapses. Investors are increasingly concerned Latin America’s third-largest economy could soon default as it struggles to repay heavy government borrowing. The peso is down more than 45 percent against the greenback this year, exacerbating pre-existing fears over the country’s weakening economy and inflation running at 25.4 percent this year. (CNBC, 30/08/18)

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