(Feb 7): Most Southeast Asian stock markets firmed on Thursday, led by Singapore, as news of further talks between Beijing and Washington bolstered hopes of a trade deal being struck before the March 2 deadline.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he and other U.S. officials will travel to Beijing next week for trade talks, aiming to clinch a deal to avert an increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
Singapore shares gained as much as 0.9% following a two-day holiday, helped by industrial and telecom stocks.
The market, which has seen minimal trading this week following a partial trading session on Monday and two days of holidays thereafter on account of the Chinese New Year, was on track to snap two straight sessions of losses.
"Singapore equities have some catching up to do, as the U.S. markets have done well over the last two trading sessions. At the same time, traders are also placing bets ahead of the budget on Feb 18," said Liu Jinshu, head of research at Tayrona Financial Pte Ltd.
Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd climbed as much as 3.1% and was the biggest boost to the benchmark index, while Singapore Telecommunications Ltd rose up to 2%.
Philippine stocks strengthened 0.6%, boosted by industrials and financials, ahead of the central bank policy meeting.
The central bank is expected to leave interest rates on hold for a second straight meeting, with inflation in January easing to its slowest in 10 months.
Inflation has been a cause of concern in the archipelago with rates rising since the start of 2018 and reaching a 10-year high in September, prompting the central bank to raise rates by a total of 175 basis points in five consecutive meetings in 2018.
Index heavyweights SM Prime Holdings Inc and SM Investments Corp gained 1.2% each.
Utilities and telecoms helped the Malaysian benchmark stock index gain 0.4%. Tenaga Nasional Bhd firmed 1.4%, while Maxis Bhd strengthened 2.2%.
SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS As at 0343 GMT
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