Most SE Asian stocks fall ahead of cenbank policy meetings; Thailand gains

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BENGALURU (March 19): Thai shares rose nearly 1% in thin trade on Tuesday, snapping three straight sessions of falls, while most other Southeast Asian markets ended lower ahead of the US Federal Reserve policy meeting and a slew of regional central bank meetings this week.

With global economic growth appearing to slow, traders were focused on the Fed, which kicks off a two-day policy meeting later in the day, for clues about the likely path of US borrowing costs.

Index heavyweights PTT Pcl and Airports of Thailand Pcl drove the rally in Thailand with both of them gaining 1% each.

About 13.4 million shares changed hands on the SET index, compared to the 30-day average volume of 13.06 billion shares.

Investors now await the Bank of Thailand's policy meeting and the country's February trade data for further clues.

The central bank is expected to keep its benchmark policy rate steady on Wednesday for a second straight review after a hike in December, a Reuters poll showed, in a bid to support a slowing economy while inflation remains low.

Customs-cleared annual exports in February may have dropped 1% but the country likely recorded a trade surplus of US$0.14 billion, a Reuters poll showed.

Indonesian stocks closed lower for the first time in five sessions ahead of the central bank's policy meeting on Thursday.

"Investors are not overly excited about Bank Indonesia's upcoming rate decision as the monetary policy direction is likely to be decided after the Presidential election next month," said Taye Shim, head of research at Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

The central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged for a fourth straight month, despite inflation falling to its lowest pace in nearly a decade, a Reuters poll showed.

Consumer stocks dragged the index lower with Astra International Tbk Pt and Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk Pt skidding 1.4% and 2.6%, respectively.

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

Vietnam stocks were the worst hit, with losses concentrated in financials.

Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam and Vietnam Prosperity Joint Stock Commercial Bank shed 1.9% and 2.7%, respectively.

Philippine shares dropped 0.4%, dragged by real estate and consumer stocks.

Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc dipped 4.7%, while Robinsons Land Corp slid 2.9%.    

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3220.92   3212.96         0.25
Bangkok                1630.09   1617.57         0.77
Manila                 7843.41   7873.02         -0.38
Jakarta                6480.276  6509.447        -0.45
Kuala Lumpur           1687.68   1690.94         -0.19
Ho Chi Minh            1006.59   1011.86         -0.52

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3220.92   3068.76         4.96
Bangkok                1630.09   1563.88         4.23
Manila                 7843.41   7,466.02        5.05
Jakarta                6480.276  6,194.50        4.61
Kuala Lumpur           1687.68   1690.58         -0.17
Ho Chi Minh            1006.59   892.54          12.78