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SE Asia Stocks-Drop as U.S.-Iran tensions dampen sentiment, Thailand falls most

By Sameer Manekar

* Singapore slips most in over six weeks * Thai stocks finish 1.7% lower * Vietnam falls most in over one month By Sameer Manekar Jan 6 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian equities ended lower on Monday on growing fears over escalating U.S.-Iran tensions, which led to a spike in oil prices and a decrease in risk appetite of investors. U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday warned of "major retaliation" if Iran strikes back for the killing of its military commander Qassem Soleimani last week. Oil prices rose a further 2% on Monday, pushing Brent above $70 a barrel, after Trump on Sunday threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq after its parliament passed a resolution calling for an end to all foreign troop presence. "A severe escalation of tensions in the Middle East, or even outright hostilities, has the potential to easily subsume any benefits gained from the interim U.S.-China trade agreement," Jeffrey Halley, an analyst at OANDA, said in a note. "The price actions of Friday and this morning (Monday) suggest that early casualties will be emerging markets and regional Asia," he added, highlighting Asia's dependence on oil imports. Thai stocks led the declines in the region, ending 1.7% lower, with Kasikornbank Pcl and Siam Cement Pcl among the top drags, losing 5.9% and 3.6%, respectively. Financials weighed on the Indonesian equities, with Bank Central Asia and Bank Mega Tbk shedding 1% and 10.2%, respectively. Financials and consumer firms were among the top losers on Malaysia's benchmark index, which fell 0.9%. Heavyweights Malayan Banking and Sime Darby Plantation shed 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. Singapore's benchmark index slipped the most in over six weeks. Heavyweights DBS Group Holdings and Jardine Strategic Holdings shed 0.5% and 0.9% each. The Philippine bourse trimmed its losses to finish 0.5% lower, with property developer SM Prime Holdings and consumer food firm Universal Robina Corp losing 1.4% and 1%. President Rodrigo Duterte signed a 4.1 trillion peso ($79.97 billion) budget for this year, up 12% from last year, to ensure timely funding for an infrastructure overhaul in the country. The Vietnamese index fell most in over one month, with financials and real estate stocks being the top losers. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3218.86 3238.82 -0.62 Bangkok 1568.5 1594.97 -1.66 Manila 7797.87 7839.79 -0.53 Jakarta 6257.403 6323.466 -1.04 Kuala Lumpur 1597.76 1611.38 -0.85 Ho Chi Minh 955.79 965.14 -0.97 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 3218.86 3222.83 -0.12 Bangkok 1568.5 1579.84 -0.72 Manila 7797.87 7,815.26 -0.22 Jakarta 6257.403 6,299.54 -0.67 Kuala Lumpur 1597.76 1588.76 0.57 Ho Chi Minh 955.79 960.99 -0.54 (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)