Philippines falls most in 2 weeks

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(Jan 30): Most Southeast Asian stock markets fell on Wednesday, with Philippine shares recording their worst fall in two weeks, as investors awaited a US Federal Reserve rates review and key Sino-US trade talks.

The Fed is widely expected to leave rates unchanged on Wednesday, as policymakers had made it clear that they plan a "patient" pause in rate hikes.

The central bank is taking a wait-and-see approach to further tightening in the face of a global economic slowdown, US federal government shutdown, trade tensions and waning business and consumer confidence.

Adding to investor caution is the start of a crucial round of Sino-US trade talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Philippine shares fell as much as 1.7% on profit-taking before recovering partially to close 0.9% lower.

"We are seeing sales of shares of companies with large institutional following, investors are now being cautious about what will happen in the US Fed meeting," said Rachelle Cruz, a research analyst at AP Securities in Manila.

Cruz said a lot of funds from the profit-taking were invested in "third-liner stocks", with Premiere Entertainment emerging as one of the most actively traded stocks after a funding deal worth 15 billion pesos (US$286.67 million) with a Qatar-based investment management firm.

Index heavyweights BDO Unibank Inc and SM Prime Holdings lost 2.4% and 1.5%, respectively, while Premiere Entertainment closed at its highest level since November 1997.

Malaysian shares fell 0.4%, dragged by utility and basic material stocks.

Effects of the Sino-US trade war were seen with data showing Malaysia's exports to China, a major trading partner, contracted 0.5% annually in December, while shipments to the United States surged 13.5%.

Singapore shares closed 0.4% lower, with DBS Group Holdings and Singapore Press Holdings falling 1.2% and 2.4%, respectively.    

Meanwhile, Thai shares gained 0.5%, with PTT Exploration and Production emerging as the top boost to the index after the company posted an 88.6% rise in full-year profit.

PTT Exploration and Production rose 2.1%, while Airports of Thailand gained 1.5%.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3174.38   3187.69         -0.42
Bangkok                1632.6    1624.05         0.53
Manila                 7979.95   8050.82         -0.88
Jakarta                6464.189  6436.48         0.43
Kuala Lumpur           1684.11   1690.41         -0.37
Ho Chi Minh            915.84    915.93          -0.01

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3174.38   3068.76         3.44
Bangkok                1632.6    1563.88         4.39
Manila                 7979.95   7,466.02        6.88
Jakarta                6464.189  6,194.50        4.35
Kuala Lumpur           1684.11   1690.58         -0.38
Ho Chi Minh            915.84    892.54          2.61

(US$1 = 52.3250 Philippine pesos)