SE Asia Stocks-Mostly down; Thai shares up as political situation improves
March 3 (Reuters) - Thai stocks hit their highest in more than two months amid falls in Southeast Asia on Monday as the political situation improved with protesters massing into one site rather than several over the weekend, easing pressure on the tourism sector and the domestic economy. All other Southeast Asia stocks slipped on worries about escalating tensions in the Ukraine. The Thai SET index was up 1.3 percent at midday touching 1,343, its highest level since Dec. 23. "Most investors have been sitting on cash after months of political crisis. So, clearer signs of the easing political situation attracted many active investors today," said Viwat Techapoonphol, a senior strategist at Tisco Securities, adding that the index could rise to 1350, and further to 1390 in the near term. Thai protesters have blocked some streets in Bangkok since mid-January in their bid to push out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and erase the influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand. Investors bought to cover short positions, and funds that had been content to stay on the sidelines due to the imposition of emergency in Bangkok started to build positions. Among the actively traded, shares of airport operator Airports of Thailand jumped 2.7 percent while Bangkok Bank rose 1.2 percent. Foreign investors have offloaded a net $3.9 billion worth of Thai shares since November through Friday due to the political turmoil, according to Thomson Reuters data. The Jakarta Composite Index was down 1 percent, Singapore shares were 0.8 percent weaker, touching their lowest in two weeks, and Malaysia's main share index was down 0.7 percent after earlier touching a three-week low. "Escalation in Ukraine's crisis will obviously have an impact on emerging markets," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB and based in Singapore. "More investors are wary of EM, which are now in the spotlight and they prefer to be on the sidelines." Vietnam's benchmark VN Index was down 0.8 percent at the break as retail investors sold stocks for quick profits, while buying demand was weak ahead of funds' portfolio restructuring. Philippine shares were steady as losses were offset by a 3.2 percent gain in SM Investments Corp, after the country's second largest company by market value on Monday posted an increase of 11 percent in 2013 profit, driven largely by record earnings of its banking unit. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0613 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move TR SE Asia Index* 396.82 397.90 -0.27 Singapore 3085.01 3110.78 -0.83 Kuala Lumpur 1823.51 1835.66 -0.66 Bangkok 1342.25 1325.33 +1.28 Jakarta 4572.48 4620.22 -1.01 Manila 6425.89 6424.99 +0.01 Ho Chi Minh 581.82 586.48 -0.79 * 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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