SE Asia Stocks-Malaysia hits over 1-wk low before rate move; eye on ECB meet
BANGKOK, March 5 (Reuters) - The key Malaysian index touched a more than 1-week low on Thursday as investors awaited a decision by the central bank on interest rates while other share markets in Southeast Asia eased ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting. The Kuala Lumpur composite index was down 1.04 percent at 1,806.49, the lowest since Feb. 23. Selling was broad based, with 26 out of 30 stocks measured by the index declining. Top losers were shares of SapuraKencana Petroleum which dropped 8 percent after Vice Chairman Mokhzani Mahathir resigned. Interest rate-sensitive banking shares were trading lower, led by shares of Malayan Banking, Public Bank and CIMB Group Holdings, amid strong turnover. Economists in a Reuters poll were unanimous in their forecasts for Bank Negara to keep its overnight policy rate unchanged at 3.25 percent amid softening economic conditions as an easing may prompt more capital outflows. The rate announcement is expected after market close. Asian stocks slipped on Thursday after Wall Street continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday's closely-watched U.S. jobs data, while the nervous euro languished at a 11-year low prior to the European Central Bank's policy meeting. Stocks in Singapore headed for a second straight day of losses, Vietnam fell after two successive sessions of gains and Thai shares edged down 0.3 percent to a six-week low. "Upside is still limited by external uncertainties and also internal issues like the coming MPC meeting on March 11," broker KGI Securities said in a report. Morgan Stanley remained 'overweight' on Asia as recent monetary policy easing in the region, including China, India and Indonesia should benefit Asian equities, it said in a report dated March 4. On ASEAN, it maintained an 'overweight' rating on Singapore and 'underweight' rating on Thailand. Its equalweight-rated countries were Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Elsewhere, the Philippine index retreated from Wednesday's record closing high of 7,847.83, with an increase in inflation in February seen unlikely to alter expectations for the central bank to keep rates on hold in the near term. In Jakarta, the key index rebounded after two days of falls. Shares of coal miners such as Bukit Asam and Adaro Energy advanced amid expectations the mining sector would benefit from the rupiah's depreciation. For Asian Companies click; For South East Asia Hot Stock reports, click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change at 0700 GMT Market Current Prev Close Pct Move Singapore 3401.81 3415.53 -0.40 Kuala Lumpur 1806.49 1825.54 -1.04 Bangkok 1558.17 1562.84 -0.30 Jakarta 5471.97 5448.06 +0.44 Manila 7832.67 7847.83 -0.19 Ho Chi Minh 596.75 600.39 -0.61 (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; Additional reporting by Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)
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