Thursday March 24, 2016
01:50 PM GMT+8

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Office workers leave for lunch at the central business district in Singapore March 23, 2016. — Reuters pic Office workers leave for lunch at the central business district in Singapore March 23, 2016. — Reuters pic BANGKOK, March 24 — Most Southeast Asian stock markets retreated on today, with Singapore hitting a more than one-week low ahead of budget while a stronger dollar capped risk appetite in the region.

The key Straits Times Index fell one per cent to 2,852.05, its lowest since March 16, after a marginal gain yesterday.

Singapore's 2016-17 budget is expected to lend a hand to businesses affected by an economic slowdown, in a possible shift in emphasis after focusing in recent years on areas such as social safety nets. The budget speech is due out at 0730 GMT.

Investors appeared content to stay on the sidelines ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend.

Broker NRA Capital said in a report that the budget “is not expected to hold major surprises though there remains hopes there will be goodies to help SMEs tide over the expected downturn this year.”

In Bangkok, the benchmark SET index edged down 0.2 per cent to 1,410.12, after five straight session of gains.

Energy shares such as PTT Exploration and Production declined in line with weak global oil prices.

Stocks in Malaysia extended their weaknesses on the day before while Indonesia traded lower for a fourth session ahead of a public holiday on Friday. The Philippine stock market was closed today through tomorrow.

Bucking the trend, Vietnam eked out small gains for a second day, adding 0.3 per cent.

In Asia, the US dollar advanced for a fifth straight session, pressuring commodities and Asian shares after yet another Federal Reserve official talked up the chance of more than one increase in US interest rate this year. — Reuters

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