Largely down as investors book profit on Fed rate hike hopes

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BENGALURU (March 8): Most Southeast Asian stock markets slipped on Wednesday, as caution set in ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting next week, where it is widely expected to raise interest rates.

Investors are awaiting clues on the U.S. economy, culminating with the government's payrolls report for February, which is due on Friday, to determine whether a rate hike at the upcoming meeting is a done deal.

"Investors are booking profits across the market in anticipation of a rate hike. We're seeing some sourness in sentiment from Wall Street's losses last night as well," said Theodore Tan, an analyst with AP Securities.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Tuesday as weakness in drug and financial shares sent the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to their first consecutive sessions of declines in more than a month.

"Asian shares have risen for the past six weeks, so some amount of profit-taking is normal," he added.

Bucking the trend, Philippine shares were headed for a fourth session of gains in five in thin trading.

"We're still waiting for some earnings results. Apart from that, there isn't much going on today since everyone is tuned in to DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary Regina Lopez's presentation on whether or not she can continue on as the secretary, given the implications in the mining industry," Tan said, referring to a legislative hearing scheduled to confirm her appointment as the environment minister who ordered more than half of the country's mines shut.

Telecom stocks led the gains, with PLDT Inc rising as much as 5.3% after it said recurring income would likely grow in 2017 for the first time in three years, while Globe Telecom climbed 3.37%.

Thai shares fell as much as 0.8% to a two-month low and were headed for a fourth straight session of declines, hurt by financials.

Group Lease fell as much as 27.6% in heavy selling, and was the biggest drag on the index.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam slipped, while Singapore rose with financials leading the gains. The three big Singapore banks rose between 0.5% and 0.6%, while exchange operator Singapore Exchange climbed 1%.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
CHANGE AT 0420 GMT

Market Current Previous Close Pct Move
Singapore 3138.11 3130.44 0.25
Bangkok 1544.01 1549.87 -0.38
Manila 7314.07 7294.52 0.27
Jakarta 5400.155 5402.615 -0.05
Kuala Lumpur 1727.01 1728.66 -0.10
Ho Chi Minh 714.97 716.54 -0.22

Change this year

Market Current End 2016 Pct Move
Singapore 3138.11 2880.76 8.93
Bangkok 1544.01 1542.94 0.07
Manila 7314.07 6840.64 6.92
Jakarta 5400.155 5296.711 1.95
Kuala Lumpur 1727.01 1641.73 5.19
Ho Chi Minh 714.97 664.87 7.53