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Friday, January 16, 2009

Financials lift S'pore, property boosts Thailand

BANGKOK: Most Southeast Asian stock markets gained on Jan 16, with financials such as DBS Group and UOB pushing Singapore higher and Thai property firms like Land & Houses and Asian Property getting a boost from tax break hopes.

A rise in Wall Street stock futures after Washington pumped US$20 billion (RM72 billion) into Bank of America buoyed Asian sentiment and encouraged investors to put money into equities, even though dismal economic data has made market players wary again.

"The equity market's risk/return profile has improved because it is already reflecting an exceptionally dismal scenario," Swiss Clariden Leu bank said in a strategy report for January.

Singapore's Straits Times index gained 1.6%, recovering from a 3.4% fall on Jan 15, with DBS Group rising 3.4%, and United-Overseas Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking both up 3.1%.

Data on Jan 16 showed Singapore's exports fell sharply in December, hammered by recession in the United States and Europe, but UBS said in a report on Singapore's banks that their share prices could rebound significantly once a GDP trough was reached.

That is not in sight: the broker expected the first quarter to record a 6% contraction in the economy.

In Bangkok, the index climbed 2.1% to close at its highest level of the day in thin turnover of US$204 million, with property outperforming. Top housing firm Land & Houses surged 4.4% and Asian Property jumped 7.1%.

Investors were hopeful that the Thai Cabinet would approve more property tax measures next Tuesday, including a tax deduction for home mortgage payments, analysts said.

"Part of the buying was from punters who looked for sectors with a good future," said Chaiyaporn Nompitakcharoen, head of research of Bualuang Securities. "Property is a good play, with more tax incentives and falling interest rates."

In Kuala Lumpur, the index slid 0.11%, extending losses into a fourth day ahead of a key by-election at the weekend. Market heavyweight Tenaga Nasional fell 1.6% ahead of its first-quarter results on Monday.

In Jakarta, shares climbed 1.5%, recouping part of a 3.1% loss on Jan 15, with advancers led by Bumi Resources, which rose 20.0%, and Telkom Indonesia, which gained 1.6%.

By Reuters

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