SE Asia Stocks-Thai shares flat as protests escalate; Philippines at 3-month high
BANGKOK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Thai stocks failed to hold on to early gains on Wednesday amid escalating anti-government protests, while Philippine shares hit three-month highs as strong earnings lured buyers to large caps such as Ayala Land and Ayala Corp. Thai SET index was nearly flat at 1,326.31 by midday after hitting a high of 1,332.55. Large caps such as shares of Siam Commercial Bank retreated after their recent gains. Protesters seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rallied at her temporary office on Wednesday, but the premier stayed away from the potential flashpoint a day after five people were killed in gunbattles in Bangkok. The baht also fell as offshore funds, foreign banks and local lenders sold the currency amid the political turmoil. Brokers in Bangkok expected the SET index to move sideways as players awaited political clarity. Selective buying in shares with low valuations could lend support, they said. "Violent clashes between police and protestors yesterday weighed on sentiment and also affected the money market .... in the medium term, we believe the SET will recover gradually due to its inexpensive valuation," said Krungsri Securities. The Philippine index climbed 1.5 percent to 6,288.80, the highest since Nov. 19. Shares of Ayala Land rose for a fifth session, up 4.4 percent after it reported a strong growth in 2013 net income. Its shareholder Ayala Corp jumped 3.9 percent. In Jakarta, the main index was up 0.5 percent to its highest in almost four months. Indonesia and the Philippines were among Southeast Asia's outperformers this year, with a year-to-date gain of 7.1 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. Indonesia and Philippine shares have been upgraded by J.P. Morgan Securities to "overweight" in its global emerging markets model portfolio, citing reduced risk perception due to stability in some currencies and improving current accounts. Most others in Southeast Asia traded cautiously higher in line with broader Asia as investors kept a wary eye on interest rates in China. Singapore's Straits Times Index edged up 0.6 percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.2 percent. In Kuala Lumpur, the main index eased 0.06 percent, weighed down by share of national carrier Malaysian Airline System, which dropped 3.2 percent after announcing a fourth straight quarterly loss. Vietnam rose 0.5 percent to 577.41, hovering around its highest since October 2009. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0717GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move TR SE Asia Index* 394.99 393.25 +0.44 Singapore 3090.75 3070.78 +0.66 Kuala Lumpur 1823.81 1825.24 -0.08 Bangkok 1326.31 1326.21 +0.01 Jakarta 4578.79 4556.19 +0.50 Manila 6289.25 6193.97 +1.54 Ho Chi Minh 577.66 574.56 +0.54 * The Thomson Reuters South East Asia Index is a highly representative indicator of stocks listed in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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