Southeast Asia stocks: Most rise in hopes of a dovish Fed, Vietnam leads gains

By Reuters   March 18, 2019 | 12:08 am PT
Southeast Asia stocks: Most rise in hopes of a dovish Fed, Vietnam leads gains
People walk past the stock exchange centre in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Monday with Vietnam leading gains as investor sentiment buoyed ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting.

"Investors are likely to tread water today, awaiting the Fed's policy decision on Wednesday," according to an OCBC note. 

A slew of central bank meetings in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand in the coming week have also boosted sentiment, it added. 

The U.S. Federal Reserve will remain patient for a little longer than thought just last month, waiting until the third quarter before raising rates once more, and then stay on the sidelines, a Reuters poll of economists showed.

The rigorous rate hike cycle of the Fed last year had put pressure on most Southeast Asian economies, with especially Indonesia resorting to aggressive policy tightening in an attempt to fend the rupiah. The continued dovish stance has relieved these pressures and fostered risk sentiment in the region.

The Vietnam index rose 0.6 percent, buoyed by financial and real estate stocks. Index heavyweights Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam rose 2 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. 

The Indonesian benchmark index rose as much as 0.7 percent rising to its highest in two weeks in early trade, with financials and consumer stocks boosting the index. 

It was up over 0.4 percent after relinquishing some of the gains, with the country's big lenders Bank Central Asia Tbk PT and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) Tbk PT gaining as much as 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. 

Singapore stocks rose about 0.4 percent after data from the trade agency Enterprise Singapore showed a surprise rise in February exports of the country.

Owing to a surge in China exports, non-oil domestic exports (NODX) of Singapore rose 4.9 percent in February year-on-year.

Industrials and financials pushed the index higher, with the country's biggest listed bank DBS Group Holdings Ltd advancing 0.6 percent and Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd firming 0.7 percent. 

Utilities and healthcare stocks pushed the Malaysian index 0.4 percent higher with Tenaga Nasional Bhd rising 1.9 percent and IHH Healthcare Bhd gaining 1.4 percent. 

Meanwhile, the Thai benchmark slipped into the red with consumer and industrial stocks dragging the index 0.4 percent lower. CP All PCL and Airports of Thailand PCL dropped 1.3 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

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