Markets see little to cheer in Trump speech; Singapore gains

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(March 1): Most Southeast Asian stock markets were mixed on Wednesday as US President Donald Trump did not offer further details on his plans for infrastructure spending and tax reforms, while the dollar strengthened on growing expectations of a Fed rate hike this month.

A handful of Fed policymakers on Tuesday jolted markets into higher expectations for a March rate hike, with comments that suggested rate-setters are worried about waiting too long in the face of pending economic stimulus from Washington.

"It seems that the possibility of a rate hike is going to affect emerging economies," said Lexter Azurin, head of research at Unicapital Securities Inc in Manila.

Trump in his address to a joint session of Congress offered little detail about planned tax cuts or new infrastructure spending beyond the broad strokes he offered during the election campaign.

Singapore shares closed 0.8% higher, snapping three consecutive sessions of losses, boosted by industrials and financials.

Among the top gainers, Keppel Corp climbed 4.1% to its highest close since Nov 6, 2015, while Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp gained 0.7%.

Philippine shares fell for a fourth straight session, posting their lowest close since Jan 18, dragged down by industrial and telecom stocks.

JG Summit Holdings Inc dropped 3.1% and telecoms services provider PLDT Inc declined 4.1%, making them the worst performers on the index.

Indonesian shares declined 0.4% with losses spread across sectors, as data showed annual inflation rate increased in February, mainly due to higher prices for processed and raw foods as well as healthcare.

With the possibility of a March Fed rate hike, "markets are a little bit concerned that a higher interest rate environment would put pressure on the local economy, given the fact that inflation has started to pick up here," said Taye Shim, head of research at Jakarta-based Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

Thai shares ended 0.5% higher with financials, telecoms and materials leading the gains.

Thailand's annual headline consumer prices and core inflation rate, which excludes raw food and energy prices, rose less than expected in February.

Bangkok Bank PCL rose nearly 2%, while True Corporation PCL increased 3.2%.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
Change on day

Market           Current       Previous close  % move
Singapore        3122.77       3096.61         0.84
Bangkok          1567.19       1559.56         0.49
Manila           7170.7        7212.09         -0.57
Jakarta          5363.056      5386.692        -0.44
Kuala Lumpur     1697.69       1693.77         0.23
Ho Chi Minh      709.52        710.79          -0.18

Change on year

Market           Current       End 2016        % move
Singapore        3122.77       2880.76         8.40
Bangkok          1567.19       1542.94         1.57
Manila           7170.7        6840.64         4.82
Jakarta          5363.056      5296.711        1.25
Kuala Lumpur     1697.69       1641.73         3.41
Ho Chi Minh      709.52        664.87          6.72