Thailand, an Asian destination once prized by foreign investors, has been wracked by political violence and volatility this year. The situation in the Southeast Asian country has worsened to the point that the U.S. State Department issued a statement urging opposing parties to engage in constructive and stop senseless violence.
“We are deeply concerned by the ongoing politically-motivated violence in Thailand. As allies and close friends of the Thai people, we are profoundly saddened by the deaths and injuries that have shaken the country. As a father and grandfather, the death of several innocent children is particularly horrifying, and must at last be a wake-up call to all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in the statement.
Political tensions in Thailand are not new. In 2010, the iShares MSCI Thailand Capped ETF (THD) experienced a rough patch when protesters took to the streets following the ouster of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This time around, it is dissatisfaction with his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government that has sparked violence.
For the bulk of the younger Shinawatra’s premiership, THD performed well and Thailand was politically stable, but she invited problems by attempting to pass an amnesty bill last year that would have overturned Thksin’s corruption conviction that prompted his exile from the country.
Thailand attempted to hold elections on Feb. 2 after parliament was dissolved, but bloody protests stood in the way. Sounds like a recipe for disaster for THD, but the opposite has been true. The lone Thailand ETF has surged almost 11% since Feb. 3, a performance that underscores the resurgence of Southeast Asia ETFs, including the iShares MSCI Philippines ETF (EPHE) and Indonesia funds.[Indonesia ETFs Rally]
On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service said that despite the potential for the protests to hamper economic growth, “Thailand’s sovereign credit profile remains consistent with its Baa1 rating level and stable outlook.”
“Other strengths include prudent monetary, macroeconomic and debt management, sustained external strength despite erosion of the post-Asian financial crisis current account surplus, a relatively strong growth outlook and an overall healthy banking system. Thailand’s fundamentals and existing buffers compare favorably to other Moody’s-rated sovereigns that have recently experienced revolutions, or are undergoing political crisis,” said Moody’s in a statement.
Moody’s points out that “Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain also highlight the potential speed and magnitude of sovereign rating downgrades if political conflicts intensify towards, or result in, a violent overthrow of the government.”
However, the Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT) is one of this year’s best single-country emerging markets ETFs and has traded slightly higher after index provider Russell Investments said earlier this week it is demoting North Africa’s largest economy to frontier markets status from emerging markets classification. [Watch Egypt ETF After Market Reclassification]
THD is up more than 15% this year, indicating it too has weathered geopolitical storms.
iShares MSCI Thailand Capped ETF