Most SE Asian stocks dip; Indonesia at 1-month low as trade deficit widens

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BENGALURU (Feb 15): Most Southeast Asian stock markets slipped on Friday awaiting developments on the Sino-US negotiations, while Indonesian stocks dropped on disappointing trade data.

The Trump administration's top two negotiators in trade talks with China will meet later in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but there has been no decision to extend a March 1 US deadline for a deal.

"Regional markets will adopt a wait-and-see approach today as they anticipate news from the trade talks. We expect muted sideways trading following North America's session," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA said in a note.

Wall Street ended slightly lower overnight after disappointing retail data, with Asian shares following suit in early trade. Also weighing on sentiment was softer inflation data from China, which pointed to further cooling in Southeast Asia's largest trading partner.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesian markets dropped nearly 0.6% to their lowest since Jan 15, after the country's trade deficit widened in January. The index was set for its worst week since October 2018.

Consumer staples and materials led the declines, with cosmetics maker Unilever Indonesia shedding as much as 1.6%, while cement maker Semen Indonesia dropped up to 3.4%.

Indonesia has been struggling to curb imports to assuage its large trade deficit, which is mostly driven by its reliance on foreign oil.

Singapore stocks slipped as much as 0.5% as financials declined, although consumer stocks curbed further losses.

However, the index was set to gain about 1.3% for the week, owing to firmer banking stocks as investors positioned themselves for potentially positive earnings next week.

The country clocked its slowest pace of GDP growth in more than two years due to a manufacturing slowdown, with the government warning of further headwinds in 2019.

Thai Beverage gained up to 8% after its first-quarter profit more than doubled, while lender DBS Group shed as much as 0.6%.

Vietnam stocks, while trading slightly lower for the day, were set to outperform their peers for the week with a 4.7% gain. The country's stocks usually perform well in the first quarter of the year due to an increased liquidity in the market.

Meanwhile, Malaysian and Philippine shares traded sideways. Malaysian shares were set for a benign week, while the Philippine index was slated to lose about 1% after a week of rebalancing.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0350 GMT
Change on the day

Market             Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore          3238.6    3253.16         -0.45
Bangkok            1645.76   1652.64         -0.42
Manila             7988.81   7991.25         -0.03
Jakarta            6386.306  6420.018        -0.53
Kuala Lumpur       1690.48   1689.06          0.08
Ho Chi Minh        950.82    952.34          -0.16

Change on year

Market             Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore          3238.6    3068.76         5.53
Bangkok            1645.76   1563.88         5.24
Manila             7988.81   7466.02         7.00
Jakarta            6386.306  6194.498        3.10
Kuala Lumpur       1690.48   1690.58         -0.01
Ho Chi Minh        950.82    892.54          6.53