Most fall, investors cautious ahead of China trade data

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(April 12): Most Southeast Asian stock markets edged lower on Friday, with Philippines slipping the most, as investors exercised caution ahead of China's March trade data and a slower first quarter GDP growth in Singapore added to global growth worries. 

China's exports are expected to have rebounded in March after a sharp drop in February, while imports likely shrank for a fourth straight month but at a more modest pace, a Reuters poll showed.

"China trade balance readings... will set the tone for Asia trading. As trade tensions between the U.S. and China cools, investors are keen to see alleviation in China's export activities, which had fallen sharply last month," said Margaret Yang Yan, a market analyst at CMC Markets.

The Philippine index led losses in the region with a 0.4% fall, hurt by industrial and real estate stocks.

Shares of International Container Terminal Services Inc dropped 4%, after an article on BusinessWorld stated that the company is negotiating with banks for the possible acquisition of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines' assets.

Singapore shares slipped into the red after disappointing first quarter GDP data, with industrials dragging the index. 

From the year ago, Singapore's GDP grew 1.3% in the first quarter, below the 1.5% expansion forecast by a Reuters poll.

Following this, Singapore's central bank on kept its monetary settings unchanged. The central bank also cut its 2019 core inflation forecast to 1% to 2%, from 1.5% to 2.5% previously.

Shares of Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd and Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd declined 1% and 0.3% respectively.

"The Singapore economy as a small open economy is seen as a harbinger for the other regional growth prints to come," an OCBC note said. With slowing growth fears weighing on the investors, trading was range-bound across Southeast Asian stock markets. 

However, Malaysian shares edged higher after a report stated that the government is due to sign a new agreement with China for the East Coast Rail Link project, which would boost investment growth in the country.    
     
SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS as at 0349 GMT
 Change on the day                               
 Market                 Current  Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3326.18  3330.82         -0.14
 Bangkok                1657.69  1659.09         -0.08
 Manila                 7921.34  7955.8          -0.43
 Jakarta                6415.4   6410.166        0.08
 Kuala Lumpur           1627.09  1624.23         0.18
 Ho Chi Minh            982.68   985.95          -0.33
                                                 
 Change so far in 2019                           
 Market                 Current  End 2018        Pct Move
 Singapore              3326.18  3068.76         8.39
 Bangkok                1657.69  1563.88         6.00
 Manila                 7921.34  7,466.02        6.10
 Jakarta                6415.4   6,194.50        3.57
 Kuala Lumpur           1627.09  1690.58         -3.76
 Ho Chi Minh            982.68   892.54          10.10