SE Asia Stocks: Manila at record; US data feeds appetite

BANGKOK, March 14 – Southeast Asian stocks climbed today, with Philippine shares setting a record high, as upbeat US economic data helped stoke appetite for risk and demand for growth stocks lifted consumer and banking shares.

The Philippine index finished up 0.9 per cent. The index hit an intraday peak of 5,070.20, breaching the previous intraday all-time high of 5,039.29 set on March 6.

Jakarta’s Composite Index rose 1.1 per cent to end at 4,054.32, climbing at one point to 4,058.80, its highest since Aug. 5. Singapore’s Straits Times Index gained 1.25 per cent to 3,026.40, slightly off a three-week intraday high of 3,027.61.

UBS upgraded its year-end target for the benchmark StraitsTimes Index to 3,350 from 3,200 driven by expectation of some upgrades in earnings forecasts.

Malaysia’s main index was up 0.75 per cent, Thailand’s SET index was up 0.94 per cent and the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange’s Vietnam Index edged up 1.04 per cent.

Sharemarkets saw late selling, brokers in the region said, citing comments from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that doused expectation of any near-term policy easing, warning that letting up on regulation now would risk chaos in the housing market.

“Markets got somewhat distracted about the policy direction by China. I think people were a bit cautious after the comment. But investors’ appetite seemed to be overall positive,” said Bangkok-based Teerada Charnyingyong, strategist at Phillip Securities.

The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index was up 0.39 per cent at 0936 GMT while the MSCI index of Southeast Asia, made up of selected stocks, was up 0.81 per cent.

In Singapore, United Overseas Bank Ltd gained 2.6 per cent, with CIMB Research upgrading the stock to outperform from neutral, citing a minor underperformance after fourth-quarter results.

In Bangkok, banking shares rose 2 per cent, hotelier Central Plaza Hotel Pcl climbed 5.3 per cent and  industrial estate developer Amata Corp Pcl gained 1.8 per cent amid expectation of their strong earnings this year.

Among bright spots, Jakarta-listed PT Astra International Tbk, a prominent motorcycle dealer and a proxy of Indonesia’s consumer sector, jumped 3.5 per cent. Manila-listed Ayala Land Inc surged 4.1 per cent.

Kuala Lumpur-listed AirAsia Bhd, Asia’s largest budget carrier, rose 1.4 per cent, recouping some of the combined 4.4 per cent losses of past five sessions.

But in a March 13 research note, broker Citi said it rated the stock a “sell”, citing concern about the airline’s rising unit costs. – Reuters


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