SE Asian stocks largely flat; Fed wary on US policy uncertainty

SE Asian stocks largely flat; Fed wary on US policy uncertainty
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(Feb 23): Southeast Asian stock markets were largely flat in lacklustre trading on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve indicated willingness to raise interest rates, but cautioned about a lack of clarity on the Trump administration's economic policies.

The Fed's January meeting minutes said that it may be appropriate to raise rates again "fairly soon" should jobs and inflation data be in line with expectations, but it also reflected the depth of uncertainty at the Fed over economic risks from President Donald Trump's plans.r

Investors are cautious about the "global uncertainties related to Trump's economic policies as well as the interest rate direction of the Federal Reserve, which was actually a non-event," said Taye Shim, head of research at Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

"So most of the investors within the emerging markets are pretty much on the sidelines."

Thai shares fell the most in the region, down 0.4%, with energy and financial sectors dragging down the index.

Lenders Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikornbank PCL fell 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively.

Among energy stocks, PTT Pcl lost 1%, while and PTT Exploration shed nearly 2%.

Singapore stocks were mostly steady ahead of the consumer price inflation data for January due later in the day.

Singapore's consumer price index for January is expected to have risen at the fastest pace in more than two years to 0.6% from a year earlier, buoyed by higher fuel prices and private transport costs, a Reuters poll showed.

Agribusiness company Wilmar International was among the losers, falling 2.4% for a fourth straight session to its lowest in more than a month.

Philippine shares rose 0.2% for a second straight day, hitting its highest in over three weeks.

Energy and utility stocks lent support to the index, with Semirara Mining and Power Corp climbing 2.6% and Manila Electric Co rising 1.4%.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
Change at 0414 GMT

Market            Current        Previous close  % move
Singapore         3121.31        3122.2          -0.03
Bangkok           1566.47        1572.04         -0.35
Manila            7319.01        7304.45         0.20
Jakarta           5365.552       5358.683        0.13
Kuala Lumpur      1707.67        1708.08         -0.02
Ho Chi Minh       716.93         717.24          -0.04

Change on year

Market            Current        End 2016        % move
Singapore         3121.31        2880.76         8.35
Bangkok           1566.47        1542.94         1.53
Manila            7319.01        6840.64         7.00
Jakarta           5365.552       5296.711        1.30
Kuala Lumpur      1707.67        1641.73         4.02
Ho Chi Minh       716.93         644.87          11.2