Most SE Asian stocks end firmer; Indonesia drags ahead of elections

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BENGALURU (April 8): Most Southeast Asian markets ended firmer on Monday as hints of more stimulus in China and a rebound in US payrolls buoyed investor sentiment, while Indonesian stocks dragged as caution surfaced ahead of the country's presidential elections.

US employment growth accelerated from a 17-month low in March, while China said it will step up its policy of targeted cuts to banks' required reserve ratios to encourage financing for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Underlying caution would prevail in EM Asia stating that the US data, while positive, is far from conclusive, said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist, Mizuho Bank.

"Expectation-beating US NFP (non-farm payrolls) is not without the soft spots; be it a dip in participation rate or weaker-than-projected wage gains," he said.

Indonesian stocks pared early losses to close 0.8% weaker after dropping as much as 1.3% during the session.

Political uncertainties ahead of the April 17 elections saw investors taking positions.

"Investor sentiment remains weak as we close in on the presidential election next week. Liquid large-cap stocks are being sold off as investors attempt to lower their risk appetite," said Taye Shim, head of research, Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

According to an opinion poll taken last month, President Joko Widodo held a double-digit lead over his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto.

Telecom and consumer stocks led declines in the region with Telekomunikasi Indonesia shedding 1.7%, while Unilever Indonesia Tbk Pt ended 1.6% weaker.

An index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks declined 0.6%.

Singapore stocks snapped a seven-session winning streak to close 0.2% weaker, with industrials dragging the index lower.

Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd and Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd closed down 1.4% each.

Vietnam stocks hit their highest close since March 20, with gains in real estate and financial shares boosting the index.

Philippine stocks closed 0.5% higher with gains concentrated in industrial shares.

International Container Terminal Services Inc closed 4.9% firmer, posting their biggest intraday percentage gain since March 12; while SM Investment Corp added 1%.

Thai stock market was closed for a holiday.

Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3315.42   3322.64         -0.22
Manila                 7915.63   7873.18          0.54
Jakarta                6425.734  6474.018        -0.75
Kuala Lumpur           1644.35   1641.81          0.15
Ho Chi Minh            997.56    989.26           0.84

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3315.42   3068.76         8.04
Manila                 7915.63   7,466.02        6.02
Jakarta                6425.734  6,194.50        3.73
Kuala Lumpur           1644.35   1690.58         -2.73
Ho Chi Minh            997.56    892.54          11.77