Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SE Asia Stocks-Mostly steady; Thai stocks rise in late trade

BANGKOK (Nov 16): Most Southeast Asian stock markets were steady on Wednesday, giving up early gains as concern about the euro zone's debt problems came to the fore, but merger deals and imminent changes to MSCI indices prompted selective buying.

Asian shares elsewhere retreated as signs that higher borrowing costs were affecting AAA-rated France stirred fears that even core euro zone members may not escape contagion from the region's debt crisis.

Volume was generally light in the region and most markets held in a narrow range, pushing higher in early trade as stronger-than-expected data on the U.S. economy revived some buying interest.

"It's still a subdued session because of the problems in Europe. Investors were not overly confident in the global economy despite the positive U.S. data," said Pichai Lertsupongkij, head of investment advisory services for broker Thanachart Securities.

Stocks in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore ended practically flat. Thailand ended up 1.2 percent but the Philippines fell 0.5 percent. Vietnam edged up 0.8 percent, snapping seven days of losses.

The Malaysian bourse said local institutions bought shares for 55 million ringgit ($17.5 million) while foreign investors sold 26.63 million ringgit ($8.4 million) of stock.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.4 percent by 0922 GMT. Uncertainty in Europe, specifically Italy, remained high as reflected by 10-year bond yields near 7 percent, a level seen as unsustainable in the long run for the debt-ridden country.

On a more positive note, U.S. retail sales in October rose more than forecast by economists, a sign that the world's largest economy started the fourth quarter with some vigour. Southeast Asian stocks have gradually recovered from their 2011 trough hit in late September to early October amid foreign outflows and market turmoil caused by the euro zone crisis. The region has fared better than most in Asia this year.

Philippine stocks have risen 3.3 percent in 2011, Asia's best performance to date, followed by Indonesia's gain of nearly 3 percent. Flood-hit Thai stocks have fallen 3.5 percent this year, Southeast Asia's fourth-worst performer. Some local brokers say the market weakness is a buying opportunity, with the floods seen as a one-off event that would only hurt GDP growth for one or two quarters.

Among bright spots, shares in Singapore-listed Chinese property developer Yanlord Land surged as much as 14.6 percent after high-profile investors raised their stakes in the company.

Top Thai lender Bangkok Bank Pcl climbed as much as 1 percent, in contrast to a 0.5 percent loss in the bank subindex, following its tender offer for all of its 56 percent owned brokerage unit Bualuang Securities Pcl.

Among stocks to be included in revised MSCI indices from the close on Nov. 30, Thai telecoms firm True Corporation Pcl surged 6.9 percent to seven-week highs. - Reuters

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