* Consumer mood drops to five-month low in Dec
* Economy may contract in Q1 - university head
* Says govt will need at least 200 bln baht to help economy (Recasts with estimated virus impact)
BANGKOK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Thailand’s economy could lose as much as 300 billion baht ($10 billion) in the first quarter after its largest coronavirus outbreak saw consumer mood sink to a five-month low in December, according to the commerce university.
The consumer confidence index dropped for the first time in three months to 50.1 in December - when the new spread was detected - from 52.4 in November, as consumers feared a surge in inflections would hit the economy and jobs, a survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce showed on Thursday.
“If the situation does not improve in January, consumer confidence could drop to a record low over the next two months,” university president Thanavath Phonvichai told a briefing.
The index hit a record low of 39.2 last April during the peak of the first coronavirus wave.
The impact of the new outbreak is expected at 200 billion to 300 billion baht in the first quarter, Thanavath said.
New virus restrictions , including closures of entertainment venues and schools in the capital Bangkok and other provinces, could hamper Thailand’s fledgling economic recovery, analysts say.
“It’s likely that the economy will contract in the first quarter, by 4% if there is a soft lockdown but by 11.3% if it is a hard lockdown,” Thanavath said.
The university now predicts the economy will grow 2.2% this year versus 2.8% earlier, he said, adding the government would need at least 200 billion baht to shore up the economy.
On Thursday, Thailand confirmed 305 new infections and one new death, bringing its total to 9,636 cases and 67 fatalities since it first found the virus early last year. ($1 = 29.94 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing Martin Petty)
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