Most gain as upbeat China data eases slowdown worries

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(Dec 2): Most Southeast Asian stock markets started the week on the front foot, as upbeat manufacturing surveys from China - the region's biggest trading partner - eased fears of an economic slowdown in the world's second-largest economy, boosting investor sentiment.

Data on Saturday showed that factory activity in China returned to growth for the first time in seven months, as accelerated stimulus measures from the government helped push up domestic demand.

Global equities also enjoyed a boost after the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a private survey of factory activity believed to include firms that are more export-oriented, expanded at its quickest pace in almost three years.

"Better-than-expected pick-up in China's manufacturing, crucially with a surprise recovery back into expansionary regions has triggered some optimism," Mizuho Bank said in a note to clients.

However, "with no imminent resolution to U.S.-China trade discussions, and with just two weeks left to the mid-December tariff deadline, caution may be the flavour of the month," the note added.

While U.S. legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters last week raised concerns about trade negotiations, investors are nonetheless holding the broad view that a further escalation in the trade war can be avoided.

The Indonesian index touched its highest in almost a week, helped by consumer and banking sectors.

Lender Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) advanced 1.9%, while cigarette maker Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna gained over 3%.

Data showed on Monday that the country's annual inflation rate slowed for a third straight month in November, as expected.

The Malaysian index marked its best session in two weeks, with Hong Leong Bank rising 0.9% and telecom co Axiata Group Bhd advancing 1.2%.

Bucking the broader trend, Thai stocks dropped after data showed that the country's headline consumer price index rose 0.21% in November from last year, but came in lower than expected.

Lender Siam Commercial Bank was down 1.7%, while telco Advance Info Service dropped 2.4%.