Most SE Asian stocks fall; Vietnam extends fall to third day

Most Southeast Asian stock markets fell on Thursday, with Vietnam sliding 2.7% weighed down by lenders, while Philippines shares ended marginally higher after data showed first-quarter economic growth was in line with expectations.

Reuters reports, the Philippines economy grew 6.8% in the first quarter, matching expectations and supporting optimism the government is on track to meet its growth target.

After market hours, the Philippine central bank raised benchmark interest rate which has remained unchanged in over three years.

“Philippines now has (by far) the steepest 2-year/10-year spread in emerging Asia. With inflation accelerating, tightening policy now could allay overheating concerns,” DBS Group Research said in a note.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) raised the key interest rate by 25 basis points to 3.25% after market close on Thursday.

The Philippine index ended 0.2% higher led by lenders such as BDO Unibank Inc, up 2.1% and Metropolitan Bank & Trust’s, up 2.6%.

Vietnamese stocks extended losses for a third session, with financials leading the decline.

Vietcombank fell 5% and Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam shed 7%.

Markets in Malaysia were closed for special public holidays, following a stunning defeat of the incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak by the Pakatan Harapan party led by former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

A fall in the Malaysian ringgit in offshore trading and a rise in the cost of insuring the country’s debt showed evidence of apprehension among investors.

The central bank, however, proceeded with a policy meeting and kept its key interest rate unchanged.

Mizuho Bank said the holidays were “buying time for Pakatan Harapan lawmakers to reassure investors that any change would be gradual and carefully managed”.

The country’s national stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, said trading would resume on Monday.

Indonesian markets were closed for a local holiday. The central bank had said on Wednesday it may raise its benchmark interest rate in a move to support the rupiah which has been wallowing at 2½-year lows.

Bank Indonesia, which has held the interest rate steady since cutting it by 25 basis points in September, will hold its monthly policy meeting next week.

Change on the day

Market             Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore 3537.59 3548.54 -0.31
Bangkok 1746.89 1756.9 -0.57
Manila 7571 7555.27 0.21
Ho Chi Minh 1028.87 1056.97 -2.66

Change on year

Market             Current   End 2017        % move
Singapore 3537.59 3402.92 3.96
Bangkok 1746.89 1753.71 -0.39
Manila 7571 8558.42 -11.54
Ho Chi Minh 1028.87 984.24 4.53
(Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri; Editing by Vyas Mohan)