Thai banks strong, can weather economic uncertainty - central bank

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FILE PHOTO: Thailand's central bank is seen at the Bank of Thailand in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's banking system remained resilient with high capital buffers and liquidity to cushion economic uncertainty, the central bank said on Monday, as the country deals with a third wave of coronavirus infections.

The outbreak, Thailand's biggest so far, has hit consumption and tourism, prompting a growth outlook downgrade by the state planning agency on Monday.

In the first quarter, overall loans expanded 3.8% from a year earlier, slowing from a 5.1% rise in the previous quarter, as large corporate loan growth moderated following an acceleration in loan usage last year, Suwannee Jatsadasake, a senior director at the Bank of Thailand (BOT), told a briefing.

Corporate loans grew 3% in the March quarter from a year earlier while consumer loans increased at a faster pace of 5.3%.

Loan quality remained stable, helped by credit assistance and revised rules on loan classification, the BOT said.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) was little changed at 3.1% of total lending at the end of March from 3.12% at the end of December.

"We are not complacent about NPLs that haven't increased because of financial support," she said. "The BOT is monitoring the situation and is ready to induce measures if needed".

However, bad loans in the tourism sector and related businesses remained a worry, Suwannee said.

Last week, the central bank extended debt relief measures for smaller debtors until the end of the year following a larger financial package to support businesses affected by the outbreak.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Martin Petty)

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