Most SE Asian stocks fall, Philippines loses most

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BENGALURU (Feb 4): Most Southeast Asian stocks fell on Monday in a lacklustre trading, with Philippines leading losses, as optimism about a trade deal between the United States and China waned.

The Philippine benchmark index fell 0.6% ahead of the country's inflation data, expected on Tuesday. Industrials and financials dragged the index with SM Investments Corp and BDO Unibank Inc dipping 1.6% and 0.9%, respectively.

Investors were skeptical about the actual progress made at the talks, especially with regard to core US demands for structural policy changes in China.

Several people briefed on the talks said that while Chinese negotiators engaged US officials on intellectual property and technology transfer practices, they did not bring any new proposals to the table.

"Views are a tad too rosy, hopes rather elevated and optimism getting ahead of far more sobering realities. Which is to say that underlying vulnerabilities and consequent volatility may not be put to bed, not just yet," said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank in a note.  

Financials and consumer staples pulled the Indonesian index 0.3% lower. Bank Central Asia Tbk PT lost 1.9%, while Unilever Indonesia Tbk PT dropped 1.3%.    

Malaysian stocks led gains in the region, rising 0.4% and were on track to snap four sessions of losses.

Utility and healthcare stocks underpinned the index with IHH Healthcare Bhd rising 1.4% and Tenaga Nasional Bhd firming 1.7%.

The Philippine central bank looks certain to leave interest rates on hold for a second straight meeting on Thursday, with inflation expected to have slowed to 4.5% in January, according to a Reuters poll.

The central bank last week said January annual inflation is likely to settle within a 4.3-5.1% range, which is ahead of the 2-4% target of the bank.

"The underlying bias despite a rate hold this time around is to tighten if elevated inflation does not soften soon enough," Varathan said.

Thai stocks rose 0.3%, boosted by energy counters amid strong oil prices.  

PTT Exploration and Production PCL rose 1.2% while CP All PCL firmed 0.7%.

Malaysia and Singapore markets are to close early today ahead of a public holiday, while Vietnam's financial markets are shut for Lunar New year.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS As at 0344 GMT

Market                 Current   Previous close  % move
Singapore              3187.67   3188.68         -0.03
Bangkok                1655.46   1651.4          0.25
Manila                 8094.47   8144.16         -0.61
Jakarta                6516.696  6538.638        -0.34
Kuala Lumpur           1690.82   1683.53         0.43

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current   End 2018        % move
Singapore              3187.67   3068.76         3.87
Bangkok                1655.46   1563.88         5.86
Manila                 8094.47   7,466.02        8.42
Jakarta                6516.696  6,194.50        5.20
Kuala Lumpur           1690.82   1690.58         0.01