SE Asia Stocks - Thai stocks up; April economic data in focus
BANGKOK, May 30 (Reuters) - Thai stocks edged higher on Friday, on track to extend gains for a fourth month, helped by optimism around the military junta's economic policies and as long-pledged rice payments to farmers helped revitalise domestic consumption. Others in Southeast Asia tracked broader Asian stocks lower, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edging down slightly. The Thai key SET index was up 0.7 percent at midday, notching up a 0.3 percent gain so far in May. Domestic investors have pumped in a net 34 billion baht ($1.04 billion) in May, while foreigners net sold the same amount. Retailers and leasing firms, such as Singer and Group Lease, which tap into urban consumers, were among this month's outperformers. "Investors should closely watch the economic numbers for April. We expect the economy to much improve in June as many farmers have already received their money for the rice crop," strategists at Maybank Kim Eng Securities wrote in a report. Data on Friday is expected to show stagnant consumption and investment, more evidence of a stumbling economy that will lend urgency to the military rulers' efforts to get the country working again. Profit-taking could keep market gains small as investors weigh in possible violence, with conflict between different political groups persisting since the military seized power in a May 22 coup, brokers said. Shares of Thai Airways International jumped more than 4 percent to their highest since March 18, as possible changes of boardroom policies boosted hopes around earnings. The airline posted a net loss in 2013 due to high operational costs. The National Anti-Corruption Commission has urged state enterprises to seriously tackle graft, starting with a shakeup of their boards, Bangkok Post newspaper reported on Wednesday. Elsewhere, Jakarta's Composite Index fell 1 percent to its lowest level since May 22, with banks taking a beating amid foreign-led selling. Bank Rakyat Indonesia dropped 1.9 percent, as foreign investors sold a net 56 million rupiah ($4,800) in shares, Thomson Reuters data showed. Market investors waited to see April trade data out on Monday to gauge macroeconomic improvement, broker Mandiri Sekuritas said in a report. Mandiri expected the April trade balance to show a deficit of $400 million, versus a consensus of $170 million surplus, partly due to higher imports ahead of the fasting season and exports facing headwinds amid a correction in commodity prices, it said. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0606 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move TR SE Asia Index* 422.32 422.70 -0.09 Singapore 3297.02 3300.71 -0.11 Kuala Lumpur 1874.72 1876.62 -0.10 Bangkok 1418.60 1408.51 +0.72 Jakarta 4935.19 4985.58 -1.01 Manila 6662.61 6676.67 -0.21 Ho Chi Minh 561.64 558.45 +0.57 * The Thomson Reuters South East Asia Index is a highly representative indicator of stocks listed in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ($1 = 11618.5000 Indonesian Rupiahs) ($1 = 32.7750 Thai Baht) (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee)
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