Singapore stocks eased on Monday as a proposed reform of stock-market rules kept investors cautious, while Thai stocks gave up early gains amid the protracted political risks at home and the impact on the economic outlook.
Stocks in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam eked out modest gains, in line with Asian stock markets after US nonfarm payrolls fell far short of expectations for a second month in January.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.3 per cent.
Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index edged down 0.2 per cent, hovering around its day low of 3,008 level and reversing a 0.8 per cent rise on Friday.
Bourse operator Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) was among the underperformers, with its shares down more than one per cent at S$6.71, the lowest since November 2012.
SGX and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said after the market close on Friday that they were consulting the market on a series of changes such as minimum trading prices, new collateral rules and short-selling reporting.
The proposed reforms could rattle near-term trading sentiment while over the long term, it would enhance transparency and prevent speculation and market rumours, said a Singapore-based analyst at UOB Kay Hian Securities.
"It's a net long-term positive," the analyst said.
In Bangkok, the SET index edged down 0.01 per cent to 1,296.41 by mid-day.
Traders cited technical-led selling around a key 1,300 resistance level, with large caps, including Kasikornbank and PTT Exploration and Production, taking a hit.
"The market should be capped around 1,300-1,310 because of the political headwinds, with the focus on the government's solution to the rice pledging scheme and the protests of unpaid rice farmers," said Teerada Charnyingyong, a strategist at Phillip Securities.
Malaysia rose 0.5 per cent, led by large cap Tenaga Nasional, while the Philippines gained 0.8 per cent to a more than one-week high. Indonesia rose 0.3 per cent to its highest in more than two weeks.
Jakarta-based MNC Securities said earnings plays would further lift the market. There was a chance the index would cross the 4,500-mark this week ahead of corporates' 2013 earnings releases, it said in a report.
"However by Thursday, investors are expected to refrain from stock-buying in anticipation of the Bank Indonesia rate decision," MNC Securities said.-- Reuters