Friday, December 16, 2011

SE Asia Stocks-Up after better U.S. data, led by Jakarta

SINGAPORE (Dec 16): Southeast Asian stock markets gained on Friday after better data on the U.S. economy helped offset worries about the euro zone, at least for now, and Indonesia led the way after a credit rating upgrade and approval of an important land bill.

A fall in unemployment benefit claims and stronger-than-expected regional factory activity in the United States suggested an improvement in the world's largest economy, helping Southeast Asian markets snap a three-day losing streak.

Indonesia gained 1.8 percent from its lowest close since Nov. 29 in heavy volume, backed by net foreign buying of $34 million, after Fitch gave it an investment-grade rating. The passage of a land acquisition bill by parliament also boosted the market in Jakarta. It is expected to help speed up big government infrastructure projects.

Singapore gained 0.9 percent, the Philippines 0.5 percent, Thailand 1 percent and Malaysia 0.1 percent. Vietnam gained 0.4 percent, recovering from a 2-1/2-year low.

Fitch Ratings upgraded Indonesia's credit status on Thursday by one notch to BBB minus, the first rating agency to give the emerging market an investment grade since 1997, reflecting the country's resilient economic growth and fundamentals.

"The rally today is mainly due to investment grade euphoria with a bigger chance of rating upgrades from Moody's and S&P in the future," said Alfian Syah, head of research at Valbury Asia Securities.

Banks led the gains in Jakarta, with Indonesia's biggest micro lender, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, rising 4.6 percent, PT Bank Mandiri jumping 3.9 percent and the biggest bank by market value, Bank Central Asia, gaining 2.6 percent.

After Manila closed, rating agency Standard & Poor's revised its rating outlook for the Philippines to positive from stable.

The latest export data from Singapore also helped sentiment, with big-cap stocks such as Singapore Telecommunications and rig builder Sembcorp Marine gaining 2.6 and 1.6 percent respectively.

In Bangkok, Thailand's second-largest mobile operator, Total Access Communication Pcl, surged 9.8 percent after a plan to pay a special dividend and a financial restructuring.

"We are still seeing some modest foreign outflows and we expect the market to move in a narrow range next week because of caution about the euro zone debt crisis," said Teerawut Kanniphakul, a senior analyst at broker CIMB Securities.

Thailand saw net foreign outflows of $139.1 million in the week, as of Thursday.

Malaysia saw foreign outflows of $19.4 million on Friday.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan was up 1.3 percent by 0950 GMT. - Reuters

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