Philippines drops ahead of inflation data, others subdued

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BENGALURU (April 4): Southeast Asian stock markets were subdued on Thursday in thin trade as investors exercised caution awaiting further development on the Sino-US trade talks, while Philippines slipped ahead of the country's March inflation data.

US-China trade talks made "good headway" last week in Beijing and the two sides aim to bridge differences during talks that could extend beyond three days this week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.

Philippine stocks closed 0.52% lower, weighed down by financials, ahead of the March inflation data on Friday.

Philippine inflation likely slowed for a fifth straight month in March, a Reuters poll showed. The consumer price index is forecast to have risen 3.5% in March from a year earlier, below the previous month's 3.8% and the lowest since January 2018.

The slowing inflation is expected to lead to the central bank reversing some of last year's policy tightening to support economic growth.

Shares of Bank of the Philippine Islands and Ayala Corp dropped 3.6% and 2.2%, respectively.

Malaysian shares edged higher despite a fall in the country's February exports.

Malaysia's exports fell sharply in February, the first contraction since August as trade slowed with most of its partners, government data showed on Thursday.

"Alongside signs of constructive US-China talks, this (uptick in Purchasing Managers Indices (PMI) from US, China and the region in March) could help Malaysia's exports and industrial activity turn the corner in 2Q 2019," a note from UOB said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia will sell a superyacht allegedly bought with stolen funds from state fund 1MDB to casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd for US$126 million, in the first major asset sale by Kuala Lumpur to recover billions lost from the fund.

Shares of Genting Malaysia slipped 0.9%.

In Singapore, Genting Singapore Ltd shares plunged 9.4% to a three-month low, after the casino operator unveiled a S$4.5 billion (US$3.3 billion) expansion plan and the government said it would hike casino entry prices and taxes, capping gains in the benchmark index.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS
Change on the day

Market                 Current  Previous close  % move
Singapore              3316.21  3311.27         0.15
Bangkok                1644.22  1649.06         -0.29
Manila                 7854.13  7895.06         -0.52
Jakarta                6494.63  6476.066        0.29
Kuala Lumpur           1645.07  1643.21         0.11
Ho Chi Minh            986.91   984.46          0.25

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current  End 2018        % move
Singapore              3316.21  3068.76         8.06
Bangkok                1644.22  1563.88         5.14
Manila                 7854.13  7,466.02        5.20
Jakarta                6494.63  6,194.50        4.85
Kuala Lumpur           1645.07  1690.58         -2.69
Ho Chi Minh            986.91   892.54          10.57