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Thai riots spur Asian economy concerns

An anti-government protester waves a Thai flag next to a burnt out bus as members of the Thai military take over the streets during violent protests in Bangkok, Thailand.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: At least one person is dead and thousands of protesters are still in the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, today. The prime minister is promising to restore order, which would be welcome news to foreign investors. Asian stock markets have soared over the past few weeks even as American indices have posted more moderate rebounds. Marketplace's Caitlan Carroll has more now on political concerns about Asia's emerging economies.


CAITLAN CARROLL: The Asian Development Bank says the political conflict in Thailand could mean its economy will shrink by 5 percent this year. But that uncertainty may not spill over to other countries in the region. Tu Packard is a senior economist with Moody's.com. She says Asian countries could well learn from Thailand's mistakes.

TU PACKARD: It's like if you're in kindergarten and another kid makes a big mess, you're probably glad you're not the one making that big mess and maybe hoping that some of the investment that was going to Thailand might come to you, if you behave better.

It's not just good behavior that attracts investment though. The recent stimulus measures in China have helped stabilize parts of its economy. People there are buying more cars. Trade flows are ramping back up. And that supports the economies of China's neighbors.

So now gun-shy foreign investors see an opportunity to catch a lot of these economies on the upswing and make some gains. Eswar Prasad is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Eswar Prasad: Foreign investors are beginning to start searching for yield once again, rather than just hunkering down in the safety of U.S. treasury bonds.

But Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist with the Hartford, warns that investor optimism isn't limitless.

QUINCY KROSBY: As far as the stock markets are concerned, at some point they're going to pull back. Markets cannot go up forever, day after day after day.

As for Thailand, she says, once the uncertainty over its future has been priced into stocks, the country's markets will probably see a rebound.

I'm Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.

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