SE Asia Stocks-Fall on strong US dollar; Malaysia at 1-week low
BANGKOK, March 25 (Reuters) - Stocks in Thailand and Vietnam edged lower on Friday amid a fall in Asia and a strong U.S. dollar, while Malaysia hit a one-week low after inflation spiked in February. Kuala Lumpur composite index was down 0.5 percent at 1,706.35, the lowest since March 18. It is heading for a modest 0.6 percent decline on the week after three straight weeks of gains. Malaysia's consumer price index in February rose to a seven-year high at 4.2 percent from a year earlier due to higher costs for food and consumer goods. Public holidays in the region kept investors on the sidelines, with Malaysia's trading volumes sliding to 20 percent of a full-day average over the past 30 days and the volumes in Thailand was about one-third of the average. Thai key SET index slid 0.4 percent, but on course for a weekly gain of 1.2 percent. Data in early trade showed Thailand's customs-cleared exports rose in February from a year earlier, contrary to the market's expectations for a 14th straight month of contraction. "Export growth may recover due to rising exports in gold and petroleum but overall core growth remains soft and unlikely to boost SET's sentiment," broker KGI Securities in a report. Vietnam's key index was down 0.2 percent on the day, on track for a weekly loss of about 1 percent, a second successive week. A recent string of gains in the dollar dented sentiment in Southeast Asia. Singapore and Indonesia, both closed on Friday for the Easter holiday, posted a weekly drop of 2 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. The Philippines, which remained closed on Friday, trimmed its weekly gain to 0.7 percent in a shortened-trading week. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0447 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move Kuala Lumpur 1706.35 1715.53 -0.54 Bangkok 1399.60 1405.41 -0.41 Ho Chi Minh 569.38 570.66 -0.22 (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; Editing by Anand Basu)
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