(Feb 11): Most Southeast Asian stocks traded flat to lower ahead of China and the United States, resuming their trade negotiations, with Thailand leading declines amid domestic political turmoil.
The Thai index fell 0.7%. The Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday moved to block his elder sister's surprise bid to run for prime minister in March elections.
Thailand's Election Commission is set to rule on the nomination later in the day.
"The King effectively barred his sister, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, from running for prime minister in an intervention that will send shockwaves through the country and turmoil into the forthcoming elections. We expect above-average volatility in both the currency and stock markets today, as the street digests this news," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
Losses in Thai equities were largely broad-based, with energy and telecom stocks serving as the biggest drags. Energy Absolute shed about 1.5%, while mobile services provider Advanced Info Service dropped nearly 3%.
Among other regional markets, Singapore shed about 0.6% as financial stocks weighed. Worries over the Chinese economy have cast a shadow over Singapore's prospects, owing to the island nation's large electronic exports to the country.
Lender DBS Group shed about 0.7%, while United Overseas Bank lost 0.9%.
A U.S. delegation is set to arrive in Beijing later in the day to recommence talks, ahead of the March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal. China is Southeast Asia's largest trading partner, and its trade tiff with the U.S. has exacted a heavy toll on the region.
Vietnam shares resumed trade after a week-long holiday and rose more than 1% to their highest since mid-December. Real estate and financial stocks led broad-based gains, with property developer Vingroup gaining 3.2%, while Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam adding 1.4%.