SE Asia Stocks-Firmer on easing EM concerns, return of foreign funds
Feb 17 (Reuters) - All Southeast Asian stocks rose on Monday, helped by hopes of a return of foreign funds into emerging markets amid easing concerns and as gains in local currencies made the region's risky assets attractive for offshore investors. Jakarta's Composite Index was 0.8 percent firmer, trading at its highest intraday level since Oct. 31. Banking shares led the gains with the Indonesian rupiah also up against the dollar. "The market continued its gain today due to recent improving macro trends, a strong rupiah and continued foreign inflows," said John Teja, director of Jakarta-based broker Ciptadana Securities. The rupiah rose more than 1 percent on Monday to hit a three-month high as currency traders said custodian banks bought the currency to snap up the country's bonds, after Indonesia's current account deficit, which has worried currency markets, narrowed in the fourth quarter to its smallest in 1-1/2 years. A recent set of positive economic data, including a trade account surplus in December and better-than-expected fourth quarter economic growth have lifted market sentiment, taking the year-to-date gain in Indonesian shares to around 6.3 percent, among Asia's outperformers. Singapore shares were up 0.8 percent, trading near a three-week high, led by banks after positive earnings from United Overseas Bank Ltd lifted its shares to their highest in two-and-a-half weeks on Monday. Despite political concerns, the Thai SET index rose 0.8 percent by midday to 1322.66, its highest level in more than one-and-half months, led by a 4 percent gain in Airports of Thailand Pcl. "The key concern is the domestic political problem. Overall, the SET index could hold well in the region of 1,300 due to its relatively low valuation to the region," said Kasem Prunratanamala, head of research at CIMB Securities (Thailand). "Easing political tensions could be an upside risk for the market, going forward." Thailand's economic growth slowed significantly in the final quarter of 2013, data showed on Monday, and the state planning agency cut its forecast for this year because of the political unrest that could prevent the formation of a fully functioning government for months. Bangkok saw net foreign inflows of $5.21 million on Thursday, the first time after 14 straight sessions of outflows which reached $890.75 million. The Thai market was closed on Friday for a public holiday. Teerada Charnyingyong, a strategist at Phillip Securities, said most foreign investors are still cautious on short-term trading. The Philippines main index was up 1 percent at a three-week high. Malaysian shares rose 0.6 percent to a near one-month high, while Vietnam was just a shade lower. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0602 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move TR SE Asia Index* 394.15 389.89 +1.09 Singapore 3063.48 3038.71 +0.82 Kuala Lumpur 1829.37 1819.37 +0.55 Bangkok 1322.66 1311.87 +0.82 Jakarta 4542.10 4508.04 +0.76 Manila 6172.64 6113.66 +0.96 Ho Chi Minh 570.33 572.22 -0.33
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