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Southeast Asia: Indonesia heads for record close, palm oil shares lead

Friday, February 6, 2015 - 16:46

[BANGKOK] Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Friday, with Singapore key stock index climbing to the highest in more than 20 months and Indonesian benchmark heading for a record closing high amid gains in shares of palm oil companies.

The Indonesian government's proposal to ramp up biodiesel subsidies overcame its final parliamentary hurdle on Friday, an Energy Ministry official said, noting that the subsidy increase could take effect next month.

Investors bought shares of palm oil companies on expectations that a hike in subsidies could help boost the use of palm oil for blending into biodiesel. A Jakarta-based analyst said higher oil prices also lifted sentiment on palm oil stocks.

Indonesia's listed palm oil firm Astra Agro Lestari surged more than 7 per cent to the highest since August, while Jakarta composite index was up one per cent at 5,333.07, surpassing the record close of 5,323.88 on Jan 23.

Singapore's Straits Times Index gained about 1 per cent, at one point touching 3,441.66, the highest since May 2013. Top gainers included shares of Golden Agri-Resources which rose more than 7 per cent.

In Bangkok, index heavyweight energy stock PTT Exploration and Production rose 0.8 per cent, helping send the benchmark SET index 0.3 per cent higher. It was up almost 2 per cent on the week, among Southeast Asia's outperformers.

A rebound in oil price lifted sentiment in energy stocks but brokers expect near-term volatility.

"Trading volatility will remain high as oil prices still do not show a strong trend of recovery and, more importantly in the near-term, Greece's debt situation remains fluid," broker KGI Securities said in a report.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged on Thursday to "put an end once and for all" to the European Union's austerity policies and to bargain hard for a new deal for Greece.

Asian shares edged higher on Friday but investors remained wary ahead of the US nonfarm payrolls report for January later in the session.

Nonfarm payrolls probably increased 234,000 last month after advancing by 252,000 in December, according to a Reuters survey of economists. It would be the 12th straight month of job gains above 200,000, the longest streak since 1994.

Among bright spots, the Philippine main index finished up 0.7 per cent at 7,728.18, a record closing high. It notched up a gain of 0.5 per cent on the week, a seventh consecutive week.

Shares of Universal Robina Corp jumped 3.4 per cent after it reported a 13 per cent rise in quarterly net income.

REUTERS