Thai Q1 GDP falls 1.8%, sharpest contraction in 8 years

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Thailand’s economy contracted at its sharpest pace in eight years in the first quarter, but by less than expected, as the coronavirus outbreak hit tourism and domestic demand.

South-east Asia’s second-largest economy shrank 1.8 per cent in the January-March quarter from a year earlier, data showed on Monday (May 18), versus a 4.0 per cent decline forecast in a Reuters poll. The economy grew a downwardly revised 1.5 per cent in the December quarter.

On a quarterly basis, the economy shrank a seasonally adjusted 2.2 per cent in the March quarter, the National Economic and Social Development Council said, smaller than the forecast 4.5 per cent contraction projected by economists.

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White House to announce economic coronavirus task force soon: senior administration official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is expected to announce soon formation of a second coronavirus task force, this one devoted to getting the U.S. economy going again when the time is right, a senior administration official said on Thursday.

Trump said earlier this week that he was considering the idea as he ponders when to bring back greater economic activity and rebound from a virus-induced collapse in the economy that has left millions jobless.

The task force is expected to include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow, among others, the official said.

Trump’s original task force, which includes health experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, is devoted to slowing the spread of the virus and finding drugs to treat the illness and a vaccine. They are expected to have input on any decision on when broader economic activity should resume.

Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, is eager to bring the economy back to life and said on Wednesday he would like to have a “big bang” reopening but that it might have to be done in phases, starting in areas with fewer infections.

Kudlow said on Tuesday it was possible to resume economic activity in four to eight weeks.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said “this unforeseen, unprecedented crisis has hurt many workers and businesses” but that Trump will be careful regarding when to reopen the economy.

“The president wants to see this economy open again so people can get back to work, but scientific data will drive the timeline on those decisions because his number one priority is to protect the safety and well-being of the American people,” he said.

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