Most SE Asian stocks subdued ahead of cenbanks' policy decisions; Indonesia drags

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BENGALURU (March 19): Most Southeast Asian stock markets were subdued in thin trading on Tuesday, with Indonesia falling the most, as investors remained on sidelines ahead of the US Federal Reserve policy meeting, and policy decisions by some regional central banks.

The Federal Reserve is likely to hold interest rates at its policy meeting, waiting until the third quarter before raising rates once more, according to a Reuters poll.

The Indonesian index was the worst hit in the region, dipping 0.4%. Consumer stocks led declines as Bank Indonesia is expected to keep rates on hold at their meeting on Thursday despite the country recording the lowest inflation in nearly a decade.

"Current economic data is still not immediately supportive of a cut given that the trade situation remains fragile," a note from OCBC had said.

Indonesia's central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged for a fourth straight month on Thursday, according to a Reuters poll, with a growing number of analysts expecting BI's next move to be a cut.

Shares of conglomerate Astra International Tbk Pt and animal food manufacturer Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk Pt dipped below 2%.

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

Singapore's benchmark fell marginally with industrial majors Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd and Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd slipping 0.9% and 0.6%, respectively.        

Meanwhile, Thai index moved up 0.3% recovering from three straight sessions of losses, ahead of the Bank of Thailand policy meeting on Wednesday.

Thailand's 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.

Malaysian stocks pared early gains as investors exercised caution ahead of the country's February inflation data, which is expected to fall according to a Reuters poll.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS at 0400 GMT
Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3211.67   3212.96         -0.04
Bangkok                1621.63   1617.57         0.25
Manila                 7872.76   7873.02         0.00
Jakarta                6485.607  6509.447        -0.37
Kuala Lumpur           1689.36   1690.94         -0.09
Ho Chi Minh            1010.54   1011.86         -0.13

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3211.67   3068.76         4.66
Bangkok                1621.63   1563.88         3.69
Manila                 7872.76   7,466.02        5.45
Jakarta                6485.607  6,194.50        4.70
Kuala Lumpur           1689.36   1690.58         -0.07
Ho Chi Minh            1010.54   892.54          13.22