The region was turned on its head last week, with mainland markets leading the losers instead of the gainers and Thailand, the most beleaguered market in Asia, rocketing 24.41 per cent. For US dollar investors, most of the gains in Bangkok would have been lost on the currency. The Thai baht fell about 20 per cent after the central bank released the currency from its trading basket on Wednesday and let it float. The radical move by the Bank of Thailand set the stage for a more fundamental remedy to the country's well-publicised financial mess. Equity investors responded without hesitation. On the mainland, Shenzhen and Shanghai markets have slipped from their leading position as Beijing's crackdown continues to spook investors. Last week, A shares reserved for domestic investors lost more than 7 per cent while B shares, denominated in foreign currency, fell more than 6 per cent. The same worries helped pull down Hong Kong-listed H shares 3.21 per cent. Red chips are still the biggest regional gainers for the year so far, up 86.05 per cent since the end of last year. Beyond Asia, only Russia and Brazil have benchmark indices that show stronger gains for the year. Bombay jumped 4.61 per cent last week. The Bombay Sensitive Index has already overshot most strategists expectations with year-to-date gains of 40.15 per cent. Seoul shares were up another 5.86 per cent on the week. The market has come back from the dead this year after a dismal 1996. The Composite Index is up 20.04 per cent so far. Taiwan saw modest gains of 2.59 per cent last week, helping the Taiwan Weighted Index retain its place as one of the region's leaders this year. Japan's Nikkei-225 Index lost 2.71 per cent last week, falling below 20,000 points for the first time since May. Brokers expect more selling this week amid concern about bankruptcies, gangster-payoff scandals and foreign-exchange rates. Foreigners, who have been net buyers for the past nine weeks, have little incentive to buy, brokers said. Financial wires reported that the cautious market mood, which has caused turnover to shrivel to 300 million shares, was partly due to a lack of evidence that Japan's economy was recovering strongly. They said the scandal at Nomura Securities, which is showing signs of spreading, was also hanging heavily over the market. The racketeer involved in the scandal has said that the other Big Four brokerages, Daiwa Securities Co, Nikko Securities Co and Yamaichi Securities Co had conducted illegal stock deals for him.