Most Southeast Asian stock markets pared some losses but ended lower on Friday with Philippines losing most, but Malaysia bounced back as fund managers rushed to prop up their portfolio towards year end. Earlier in the session, all regions slipped as a cocktail of negative leads ranging from the prospect of a US government shutdown to US chastising China for economic espionage weighed on sentiment.
Despite a marginal recovery, the sentiment remained subdued with most regions ending lower on economic worries, while Malaysia and Indonesia reversed course to notch gains. Malaysia's benchmark reversed course to end at a more than 1-week high. It was the sole country in the region which notched a weekly gain, ending higher by about 0.5 percent.
Shares of electric utilities provider Tenaga Nasional Berhad jumped 5.2 percent and those of palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation Berhad tacked on nearly 10 percent. The gain on the index was likely due to a technical rebound following recent price weakness and also year-end "window dressing activities," said Syed Muhammed Kifni, chief strategist at MIDF.
Window dressing is a strategy used by portfolio managers near the year or quarter end to improve appearance of a fund's performance before presenting it to clients, purchasing high-flying stocks and selling losing ones. He also noted that the benchmark had similarly jumped about 50 points during the last six trading days in 2017. Indonesian's benchmark also rose at close but failed to offset losses earlier in the week, notching a weekly loss that snapped three straight weeks of gains.
Earlier in the day, the national carrier Garuda's Chief Executive Officer said it expects to end 2018 in profit and is targeting a net profit of 1 trillion rupiah ($69.03 million) for 2019, sending shares up 0.9 percent at close. On the other hand, Philippine's index fell most, losing 0.6 percent during the week to snap five consecutive weeks of gains.
Losses were largely underpinned by real-estate stocks, with property developer SM Prime Holdings Inc dropping 2.5 percent while Ayala Land Inc shed 1.8 percent. Vietnam's index posted its seventh straight session of loss, and second consecutive weekly loss. The index also recorded a weekly loss of 4.2 percent, its worst performance since the week ending Oct 26.
Real-estate stocks were main laggards, with Vinhomes JSC's counter shedding 4.5 percent and that of Vincom Retail JSC off 2.7 percent. Singapore's index edged lower to post its third consecutive weekly loss.