Vietnam stocks rise most in Asia on rate optimism

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Vietnam's stocks advanced, driving the benchmark index to a five-month high, after the chairman of the market regulator signaled that borrowing costs will fall.

The Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange's VN Index rose 2.7 percent, the most among key stock benchmarks in Asia on Friday, to 439.60. The close was the highest since Sept. 23. The index has jumped 25 percent this year after slumping 27 percent in 2011 as the central bank raised interest rates to curb inflation.

Inflation decelerated for a sixth month, with consumer prices climbing 16.44 percent in February from a year earlier, down from the previous month's 17.27 percent. The government said in December that it would order commercial banks to gradually lower interest rates when inflation slowed, to improve access to capital for small- and medium-sized businesses.

"The monetary policy has been more flexible and there have been signs that interest rates will drop," Vu Bang, chairman of the State Securities Commission said at a conference in Hanoi on Friday. "The stock market will have an opportunity to recover."

Masan Group Corp., the second-largest company on the VN Index by market capitalization, rose 4.2 percent to VND124,000. Military Commercial Joint-Stock Bank, the most active stock by both value and volume today, surged 4.7 percent to 15,600 dong, a record high.

"Bang's comment reinforced market expectation that interest rates will drop," Nguyen Hoai Nam, deputy head of research at Kim Eng Vietnam Securities Co., said by phone from Hanoi. "Fundamental factors like easing inflation and a stable currency are also drawing foreign investors."

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