Most SE Asian stocks fall on trade deal uncertainty

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BENGALURU (Feb 26): Most Southeast Asian stock markets fell on Tuesday, in line with broader Asia, as investors waited to see if the United States and China could clinch a trade deal.

US President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would delay a tariff hike on US$200 billion of Chinese imports in the clearest sign yet that both sides were making progress in the talks, but he also sounded a note of caution, saying a deal "could happen fairly soon, or it might not happen at all."

Southeast Asian markets have been under pressure since the start of the Sino-US trade war, as any signs of a slowdown in China — the region's largest trading partner — tends to have a ripple effect across the region.

Singapore shares closed lower for a third session in four after data showed the island state's industrial production shrank to its lowest in two-and-a-half years in January, hurt by a significant drop in electronics manufacturing.

Financial and consumer stocks were among the top losers with United Overseas Bank Ltd shedding 0.4%, while Singapore Airlines Ltd fell 0.9%.

Thai stocks snapped four straight sessions of gains after January factory output data came well below analysts' expectations.

Energy stocks led the decline as crude oil prices fell further after Trump called on producer group OPEC to rein in its efforts to boost prices.   

Malaysian stocks closed lower for a second session in three, dragged by index heavyweights Maxis Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd.

The fall was likely due to "profit-taking activities after recent gains, and as the market approaches its immediate technical resistance levels of circa 1,725 points", said Syed Muhammed Kifni Syed Kamaruddin, chief strategist at MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd.

Shares of Malayan Banking Bhd, Malaysia's top lender and biggest listed firm by market value, ended slightly higher after the company posted its highest quarterly profit in two years.

Vietnam shares closed 0.7% lower, snapping six straight sessions of gains. The benchmark stock index had closed at a more than four-month high on Monday, and has outperformed its peers by a vast margin this year.

Philippine shares gained 0.3% on resumption of trade, while Indonesian stocks rose 0.2%.

STOCK MARKETS
Change on the day

Market             Current  Previous close  % move
Singapore          3261.66  3272.35         -0.33
Bangkok            1663.56  1671.75         -0.49
Manila             7988.16  7962.13         0.33
Jakarta            6540.95  6525.358        0.24
Kuala Lumpur       1719     1724.58         -0.32
Ho Chi Minh        987.06   994.43          -0.74

Change on year

Market             Current  End 2018        % move
Singapore          3261.66  3068.76         6.29
Bangkok            1663.56  1563.88         6.37
Manila             7988.16  7466.02         6.99
Jakarta            6540.95  6194.498        5.59
Kuala Lumpur       1719     1690.58         1.68
Ho Chi Minh        987.06   892.54          10.59