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Thai stocks sink on coup, other world markets gain

BANGKOK/HONG KONG -- Thailand's stock market sank Friday, a day after the country's military seized power in a nonviolent coup. Other world stock markets were mostly higher but Europe's gains were tempered as a polarized Ukraine braced for weekend elections.

In early European trading, Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent to 9,738.08 and France's CAC 40 rose 0.1 percent to 4,484.16. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.2 percent to 6,806.33.

Ukraine's presidential election could add to already high tensions between Russia and the West over the country's tilt toward the European Union. Fighting continued Friday in Ukraine's east between pro-Russia insurgents and government forces two days before the election that may result in a runoff vote in June.

Futures pointed to more modest gains on Wall Street before the Memorial Day long weekend. Dow futures were up 0.1 percent to 16,537 and S&P 500 futures added 0.1 percent to 1,891.50.

Asian markets rose for a second straight day Friday following a positive lead from Wall Street, but Bangkok retreated after the army announced a coup following months of deadly protests.

Tokyo climbed 0.87 percent, or 124.38 points, to 14,462.17, Sydney put on 0.23 percent, or 12.9 points, to 5,492.8 and Seoul was flat, edging up 1.58 points to 2,017.17.

Shanghai rose 0.66 percent, or 13.28 points, to 2,034.57 and Hong Kong was marginally higher, adding 12.10 points to 22,965.86.

Sentiment remains buoyant after Thursday's gains that were fuelled by a sharp improvement in Chinese manufacturing activity and positive comments about interest rates from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

New York's main indexes ended higher following a mixed batch of indicators as the United States heads for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims, a measure of the pace of layoffs, ticked up slightly from the previous week, while existing homes sales were 1.3 percent higher in April, the first month there has been a rise this year.

The Dow edged up 0.07 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq added 0.55 percent.

'Coup reduces uncertainty'

Concerns about the effect of the latest move on the economy were highlighted as Toyota and Honda said they had been forced to close their factories in the country in order to comply with the curfew.

Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics said the latest events could help the country in the short term.

“The coup reduces uncertainty about the immediate outlook and, in particular, the possibility that the political standoff would turn much more violent,” he said. “For these reasons it could actually be positive both for Thailand's economy and financial markets in the near term.”

The baht rose to 32.50 against the dollar from 32.54 on Thursday.

Gold fetched US$1,291.65 an ounce at 1038 GMT compared with US$1,296.27 late Wednesday.

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