BANGKOK (Reuters) - After surging gold shipments helped push Thailand’s baht to a 6-year-high, dealers in the yellow metal voiced doubt on Friday at the central bank’s hopes of getting them to bring back their export proceeds more slowly.
The baht THB=TH is Asia's best performing currency this year, firming more than 7% against the U.S. dollar, and putting further pressure on the export-reliant economy.
Thailand produces very little gold and the flow is driven by trading. Shipments in August accounted for 7.4% of Thailand’s overall exports.
Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said on Thursday that rules would not be imposed on gold trading, but he urged gold traders to keep funds overseas for longer.
“There were quite huge gold flows, which added to appreciation pressure on the baht,” he said.
The biggest factors buoying the baht have been a hefty current account surplus and foreign fund inflows to a currency seen as a relative safe haven.
Gold dealers said exports had spiked because Thais who bought gold in the past were taking advantage of a recent rise in global prices XAU= to above $1,550 an ounce.
Gold traders recently met the Bank of Thailand to discuss the situation, said Kritcharat Hiranyasiri, president of MTS Gold group. But he said it was unrealistic to expect gold investors to keep their proceeds abroad for longer.
“Gold investors want cash, so there is no fund parking,” he said, adding that the central bank should find other measures to curb fund inflows.
Despite the recent spike in exports, Thailand has still imported a net $43.6 billion of gold since 2009 - although that includes imports for use in jewelry and religious items in the largely Buddhist country as well as by gold traders.
(GRAPHIC: Thailand's net gold exports - here)
The central bank governor told Reuters that many Thais had bought gold when prices were even higher in the hope it would appreciate further.
“This is unique about Thailand. Thai people have invested a lot in gold, and whenever gold prices go up globally, they would sell the gold that they had bought earlier,” Veerathai said.
That also means that those selling gold are often small players who want to get their money immediately via dealers who also cannot afford to wait repatriate proceeds of exports.
“As we don’t hedge, when clients sell a lot of gold, we have to export that, and inevitably bring in the money,” said Pichaya Phisuthikul, vice president of Gold Traders Association.
Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Matthew Tostevin & Kim Coghill