SE Asia Stocks-Thailand rises on stimulus plan; Indonesia, Philippines down
By Nichola Saminather SINGAPORE, March 22 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets were mixed on Tuesday, with Thailand advancing on stimulus measures announced this week and as investors waited for a decision on interest rates by central banks in the country as well as in the Philippines. Thailand's SET index ended the day up 0.3 percent after the nation's cabinet approved 70 billion baht ($2 billion) of soft loans for lower-income first-home buyers. That followed a plan announced Monday by the finance minister for more stimulus measures, including grants for low-income earners and tax deductions during next month's water festival. "Thailand's SET is helped by additional economic stimulus that is targeted at boosting consumption. However, the boost may be limited given that some of the measures are temporary," such as the tax breaks, said Bernard Aw, market analyst at online brokerage IG in Singapore. The Philippines composite index pared losses to close down 0.5 percent, after jumping to its highest close since August on Monday. Both the Thai and Philippine central banks are expected to leave interest rates unchanged when they meet on Wednesday. Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index, the other loser in the region, was down 0.6 percent at the close. Thousands of Indonesian taxi drivers took to the streets of the capital Jakarta on Tuesday to protest ride-hailing apps such as Grab and Uber, bringing parts of the city to a standstill. "Indonesia and the Philippines have been doing really well this year, so may be facing some profit-taking pressure," IG's Aw said. Both indexes are up about 6 percent this year, and, along with Malaysia, are the best performing major Asian markets. Moody's Investor Service on Tuesday said Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, the region's major export-oriented economies, face weaker growth prospects than the more domestic demand-driven economies of Indonesia and the Philippines. Singapore's Straits Times Index surrendered early gains to end the day flat at 2,880.65. A Reuters poll on Tuesday showed February industrial production probably fell from a year earlier for the 13th straight month. Investors are looking to the city-state's 2016 budget announcement expected on Thursday. Malaysia, which traded flat most of the day, jumped in late trading to close 0.4 percent higher. For Asian Companies click: SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current previous Pct Move close Singapore 2880.65 2880.69 0.00 Bangkok 1397.2 1393.63 0.26 Manila 7342.03 7376.41 -0.47 Jakarta 4856.107 4885.163 -0.59 Kuala Lumpur 1724.75 1718.36 0.37 Ho Chi Minh 570.91 572.27 -0.24 Change so far this year Market Current End prev Pct Move yr Singapore 2880.65 2882.73 -0.07 Bangkok 1397.2 1288.02 8.48 Manila 7342.03 6952.08 5.61 Jakarta 4856.107 4593.008 5.73 Kuala Lumpur 1724.75 1692.51 1.90 Ho Chi Minh 570.91 579.03 -1.40 ($1 = 34.9000 baht) (Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)
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