Investors cautious as IMF warning adds to global growth uncertainty

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BENGALURU (June 6): Most Southeast Asian markets were flat on Thursday in lacklustre trade as persistent concerns about global economic activity and escalating trade wars weigh on investor sentiment.
  
Investors were cautious after the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday warned that the Sino-U.S. tariffs could cut 2020 global gross domestic product by 0.5%, or about $455 billion.

The estimate does not include the impact of a looming U.S. trade war with Mexico, which would further depress global growth. 

International trade tensions have ramped up over the last month as U.S. President Donald Trump's administration rekindled a bitter trade war with China, and threatened 5% tariffs on goods from Mexico starting on Monday. 

The Singapore bourse was marginally lower with index heavyweights DBS Group Holdings Ltd and Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd declining 0.4% and 0.6%,
respectively. 

Vietnam stocks fell as much as 0.2%, hurt by utilities and consumer staple shares. Petrovietnam Gas Joint Stock Corp lost 1.7% and Vietnam Dairy Products
slipped 0.7%. 

Thai shares recovered from early falls as losses in energy stocks offset gains in real estate. Oil and gas firm PTT PCL lost 0.5% while Land and Houses PCL added 6.4%.

Losses were limited in the region due to expectations of monetary policy easing after top U.S. officials moved away from their "patient" stance and warned that the global tariff dispute may force them to respond appropriately.

Philippine equities pared early gains and were flat at 0338 GMT amid a slowing economy and expectations of lack of price pressure this year will likely mean further policy easing.

Data on Wednesday showed, that the country's annual inflation rate rose 3.2% from a year earlier in May, speeding up  for the first time in eight months.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas chief, however, said the faster-than-expected inflation is only one data point and "does not constitute a trend".

"The central bank appears unfazed by the latest print, suggesting that more rate cuts would be on the way," ING said in a note to clients.

Markets in Indonesia and Malaysia are closed for holidays on Thursday.