Most SE Asian stocks edge higher; investors eye Fed minutes

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BENGALURU (April 9): Most Southeast Asian stocks rose in thin trade on Tuesday, with Indonesia leading gains ahead of the US Federal Reserve meeting minutes and inflation data, while uncertainties on the Sino-US trade talks lingered.

"The FOMC Minutes could hold more dovish details to hold rates this year and wind down QT (Quantitative tightening)," Vishnu Varathan, senior economist with Mizuho Bank said in a note.

According to a Reuters poll taken last month, the US Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates until at least the end of next year. Economists gave a 40% chance of at least one rate cut by end-2020.

US consumer price index, due out Wednesday, is likely to have risen 1.8% in March, according to a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, investor sentiment was hampered following news that US officials are "not satisfied yet" about all the issues standing in the way of a deal to end the US-China trade war. However, a top White House official also stated that progress had been made in talks with China last week.

Growing uncertainties on the Sino-US trade front ahead of the Fed minutes release on Wednesday saw investors across the board adopt a cautious approach. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat after brushing its highest since late August last year during the previous session.     

Indonesian stocks led gains in the region with a 0.8% rise and were set to snap two sessions of losses. Energy and financial stocks boosted the index with United Tractors Tbk Pt firming 1.4% and Bank Central Asia Tbk Pt adding 0.4%.

Oil prices eased on Tuesday, slipping away from 5-month highs reached earlier in the session as a sluggish economic outlook countered an otherwise tight market.

Singapore stocks recouped losses from the previous session with a 0.2% rise, supported by gains among the lenders.

United Overseas Bank Ltd and DBS Group Holdings Ltd gained 0.3% and 0.5%, respectively.

Meanwhile, telecom stocks dragged the Malaysian benchmark index lower. Maxis Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd dropped 1.8% and 1%, respectively.

Vietnam stocks slipped and were on track to snap three straight sessions of gains.     

Philippine stock markets were closed for a holiday.

Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3322.79   3315.42         0.22
Bangkok                1651.05   1646.18         0.30
Jakarta                6477.355  6425.734        0.80
Kuala Lumpur           1640.46   1644.35         -0.24
Ho Chi Minh            996.2     997.56          -0.14

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3322.79   3068.76         8.28
Bangkok                1651.05   1563.88         5.57
Jakarta                6477.355  6,194.50        4.57
Kuala Lumpur           1640.46   1690.58         -2.96
Ho Chi Minh            996.2     892.54          11.61