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SE Asia stocks: Indonesia falls after five sessions of gains; Malaysia hits near 22-month high

Malaysian shares rose as much as 0.6 per cent to their highest in about 22 months. — AFP pic
Malaysian shares rose as much as 0.6 per cent to their highest in about 22 months. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — South-east Asian stock markets were mixed in thin trade today, with Indonesia heading for its first fall in six sessions while the US Federal Reserve’s dovish stance continued to drag the dollar lower.

Indonesian shares fell as much as 0.4 per cent following last week’s record-setting spree with consumer and energy stocks leading the decline.

“I think it’s just a bit of profit-taking,” said Harry Su, an analyst with Bahana Securities in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s central bank held its key policy rate unchanged on Thursday, saying it wanted to maintain stability amid global uncertainties.

“Last week was a turning point for Indonesian equities. The Federal Reserve made it clear that despite a rate hike, its monetary policy remains ‘accommodative’,” said Taye Shim, head of research at Jakarta-based Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

“Given most foreign investors have large cash positions, we expect to see increased foreign net buying during this week.”

The dollar slowly ceded ground in Asia today with greenback bulls still nursing grudges after the Fed’s rate guidance last week proved to be less “hawkish” than many had wagered on.

“The dovish stance of the Fed reignited investor appetite for risk assets, pushing up regional asset prices,” said Shim.

United Tractors Tbk PT fell 2.3 per cent, while Unilever Indonesia Tbk PT dropped 0.9 per cent.

An index of the 45 most liquid stocks was down 0.4 per cent.

Malaysian shares rose as much as 0.6 per cent to their highest in about 22 months. Financials and telecoms led the gains with Malayan Banking Bhd adding 0.9 per cent and Axiata Group Bhd gaining 1.6 per cent.

Singapore was down after two sessions of gains with energy and financial stocks being the biggest drag. Keppel Corp Ltd fell 0.9 per cent.

Oil prices fell as rising US drilling activity and steady supplies from OPEC countries despite touted production cuts pressured already-bloated markets.

Philippine shares slipped, pulled down by financials and utilities, with property developer SM Prime Holdings Inc losing 0.9 per cent.

“CPI inflation is already above 3 per cent, as of February 2017. Demand-pull inflationary pressures remain prevalent in the economy. A gradual policy tightening is forthcoming,” DBS Research Group said in a note. — Reuters

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