SE Asia Stocks-Most retreat; Singapore falls ahead of budget
BANGKOK, March 24 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets retreated on Thursday, with Singapore hitting a more than one-week low ahead of budget while a stronger dollar capped risk appetite in the region. The key Straits Times Index fell 1 percent to 2,852.05, its lowest since March 16, after a marginal gain on Wednesday. Singapore's 2016-17 budget is expected to lend a hand to businesses affected by an economic slowdown, in a possible shift in emphasis after focusing in recent years on areas such as social safety nets. The budget speech is due out at 0730 GMT. Investors appeared content to stay on the sidelines ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend. Broker NRA Capital said in a report that the budget "is not expected to hold major surprises though there remains hopes there will be goodies to help SMEs tide over the expected downturn this year." In Bangkok, the benchmark SET index edged down 0.2 percent to 1,410.12, after five straight session of gains. Energy shares such as PTT Exploration and Production declined in line with weak global oil prices. Stocks in Malaysia extended their weaknesses on the day before while Indonesia traded lower for a fourth session ahead of a public holiday on Friday. The Philippine stock market was closed on Thursday through Friday. Bucking the trend, Vietnam eked out small gains for a second day, adding 0.3 percent. In Asia, the dollar advanced for a fifth straight session, pressuring commodities and Asian shares after yet another Federal Reserve official talked up the chance of more than one increase in U.S. interest rate this year. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0443 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move Singapore 2852.05 2881.98 -1.04 Kuala Lumpur 1715.71 1724.55 -0.51 Bangkok 1410.12 1412.16 -0.18 Jakarta 4833.48 4854.18 -0.43 Ho Chi Minh 575.43 574.71 +0.13 (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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