SE Asia Stocks-Drop as Hong Kong tensions clog trade-deal sentiment

By Arundhati Dutta

* Hong Kong human rights bill could hamper trade talks * Indonesia set for sixth straight day of losses * The Philippines falls most, down 0.7% By Arundhati Dutta Nov 28 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian markets fell on Thursday as investors feared the U.S. government's decision to sign a bill backing protesters in Hong Kong could thwart Beijing and Washington from defusing their 16-month trade dispute. Mass protests for more democracy and autonomy have rocked the former British colony for six months, with escalating violence and fears that China will ratchet up its response to end the unrest. China's Foreign Ministry said it will take "firm counter measures" if the United States continues to interfere in Hong Kong after Trump on Wednesday signed into law congressional legislation backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. "All eyes will be on just what kind of responses China would muster, and whether it would derail the trade negotiations," OCBC Treasury Research said in a note. Some analysts, however, feel there is a low possibility of Trump's move affecting trade talks as his signature was expected. "Expect some belligerent noises from China about domestic affairs interference today, but no concrete reprisals," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA said in a note. Helping contain losses in the regional markets was positive data from the United States, which showed that economic growth picked up slightly in the third quarter rather than slowing down as initially reported, while the number of claims for unemployment benefits had dropped last week. The Philippine index, the top drag in the region, retreated from previous session's gains, with food distributor Universal Robina Corp skidding 2.2% and financial services provider SM Investments Corp dropping 0.9%. The Singapore benchmark - which is highly vulnerable to headlines related to the trade talks - marked their worst session in a week, with index heavyweights Jardine Matheson Holdings and United Overseas Bank shedding 0.6% and 0.3%, respectively. Malaysian shares edged lower, dragged by financials. Malayan Banking Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd each dropped 0.7%. Indonesian equities were on track for a sixth straight session of loss, with financials leading the decline. PT Bank Central Asia Tbk and PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk each slipped up to 0.7%. Vietnamese stocks shed 0.4%, with financials weighing on the index. Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) slid 0.8%. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0346 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3205.09 3215.53 -0.32 Bangkok 1605.23 1607.27 -0.13 Manila 7779.54 7836.89 -0.73 Jakarta 6016.975 6023.039 -0.10 Kuala Lumpur 1583.37 1587.18 -0.24 Ho Chi Minh 974.58 978.17 -0.37 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3205.09 3068.76 4.44 Bangkok 1605.23 1563.88 2.64 Manila 7779.54 7,466.02 4.20 Jakarta 6016.975 6,194.50 -2.87 Kuala Lumpur 1583.37 1690.58 -6.34 Ho Chi Minh 974.58 892.54 9.19 (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)