Most SE Asian stocks edge higher on China stimulus, US jobs data

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BENGALURU (April 8): Most Southeast Asian stocks edged higher on Monday as stimulus from China and better-than-expected US jobs data lifted sentiment and allayed concerns of a slowdown in global economic growth.

On Sunday, China's central bank said it will step up its policy of targeted cuts to banks' required reserve ratios to encourage financing for small and medium-sized businesses.

Meanwhile, US employment growth accelerated from a 17-month low in March, but a moderation in wage gains supported the Federal Reserve's decision to suspend further interest rate increases this year.    

"The underlying caution may resurface and prevail over exuberance, keeping EM Asia FX and asset markets reined in even if not on the back foot," said Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist with Mizuho Bank, stating that the US data, while positive, is far from conclusive.

"Expectations-beating US NFP (non-farm payrolls) is not without the soft spots; be it a dip in participation rate or weaker-than-projected wage gains," he added.

Southeast Asian countries engaged in talks on a major China-backed trade pact expect to finalise it this year, adding to the positive sentiment.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact envisions creation of a free trade zone encompassing 45% of the world's population and more than a third of its GDP. Negotiations on it began in 2012.

Philippine stocks led gains in the region with the 0.3% rise supported by industrials and financials.

Shares of SM Investment Corp and International Container Terminal Services Inc added 0.6% and 2.8%, respectively.

Indonesian shares dipped as much as 0.8% to their lowest in two weeks, with telecom and consumer stocks dragging the index.

Bank Indonesia on Friday said that the country's Consumer Confidence Index had dropped tp 124.5 in March, compared to 125.1 in February.

Telekomunikasi Indonesia shed 1.5% while Astra International Tbk PT lost 2%.

Singapore stocks were set to snap a 7-session gaining streak, sliding 0.2%, hurt by industrials.

Thai markets were closed for a holiday.

Change on the day

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3316.23   3322.64         -0.19
Manila                 7895.8    7873.18         0.29
Jakarta                6426.035  6474.018        -0.74
Kuala Lumpur           1644.83   1641.81         0.18
Ho Chi Minh            990.54    989.26          0.13

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3316.23   3068.76         8.06
Manila                 7895.8    7,466.02        5.76
Jakarta                6426.035  6,194.50        3.74
Kuala Lumpur           1644.83   1690.58         -2.71
Ho Chi Minh            990.54    892.54          10.98