Vietnam stocks gain most in Asia on policy optimism

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Vietnam's stocks rose, driving up the benchmark index by the most in two years, after the prime minister signed a directive aimed at developing the nation's equity markets.

The VN Index jumped 4 percent, the most in Asia Monday and the largest one-day gain since Jan. 4, 2010, to 457.21 at the close of trading on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange. The gauge settled at the highest level since Sept. 19. The index has jumped 30 percent this year, the third-best performance among 93 major benchmarks tracked by Bloomberg.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved an equity-market development strategy through 2020 that aims to ensure transparency and "protect investor benefits and market confidence," according to a document posted on the Hanoi Stock Exchange website late March 2.

"Recent announcements from the government indicate that officials are now paying attention to the stock market," Pham Thanh Thai Linh, Hanoi-based head of research at Bao Viet Securities Co., a unit of Vietnam's biggest insurer, said by phone Monday. "That boosted confidence because in the past two- to-three years, ministries didn't take as much interest in the equity market."

The government wants to boost market capitalization of the nation's stock markets to 70 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, according to the document. Total market capitalization fell to 25 percent of GDP in 2011, from 39 percent at the end of 2010, according to a State Securities Commission document released March 2.

Trading hours

Vietnam added an afternoon session from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m. on both bourses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, starting Monday.

Saigon Securities Joint-Stock Co., the biggest listed securities company by market value, rose 4.9 percent to VND19,300, the highest close since Oct. 6. Vietnam Export-Import Commercial Joint-Stock Bank gained for a sixth day, jumping 4.6 percent to VND20,400, the highest close since October 2009.

"Longer trading hours will bolster liquidity and trading volume, which will especially benefit securities companies," Linh said.

The VN Index slid 27 percent last year, the biggest decline among major Asian indexes, as interest-rate increases to combat accelerating inflation hurt economic growth and corporate earnings. Inflation slowed for a sixth month in February to 16.44 percent, after peaking at 23.02 percent in August.

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