SE Asia Stocks-Rangebound-to-weak; Indonesia banks up ahead of rate decision
BANGKOK, March 16 (Reuters) - Indonesian stocks edged up on Monday as bargain-hunting emerged in banking shares a day ahead of the central bank's decision on interest rates, while other markets were rangebound-to-weaker awaiting cues on interest rate direction from the United States. Jakarta's composite index was up 0.33 percent, recovering from minor early losses and the fall on Friday. Foreign invertors led buyers in banking shares with Bank Central Asia, Bank Mandiri and Bank Rakyat Indonesia among those actively traded, stock exchange data showed. Thirteen out of 14 economists expected the benchmark rate will be kept at 7.5 percent on Tuesday to aid the rupiah depreciation. The rupiah hit a fresh 17-year low, while sluggish exports and imports in February offset a higher-than-expected trade surplus. The Thai SET Index headed for a second straight day of falls to 1,522.18. Brokers said the slide was in part due to a bout of short-selling in large-caps. "For short-term strategy, we advise investors to sell the rallies and buy the dips in shares of companies standing to benefit from the recent interest rate cut by the Bank of Thailand," said broker Phillip Securities in a report. Losses in Bangkok were led by shares of True Corporation , which dropped 3 percent, and Bangkok Bank, which slipped to its lowest since May 2014. A two-day U.S. Federal Open Market Committee policy meeting on March 17-18 being keenly watched by investors in the region for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike. The Philippine main index touched a two-week low, while Vietnam hit its lowest since Feb. 11. Malaysian shares were 0.2 percent higher while stocks in Singapore rebounded from a more-than-seven-week closing low on Friday. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0651 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move Singapore 3385.40 3362.77 +0.67 Kuala Lumpur 1785.26 1781.75 +0.20 Bangkok 1522.18 1541.55 -1.26 Jakarta 5444.63 5426.47 +0.33 Manila 7749.84 7809.54 -0.76 Ho Chi Minh 582.06 586.10 -0.69 (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; Editing by Sunil Nair)
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