SE Asian stocks rise as Fed official stokes rate-cut bets

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(July 19): Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Friday after a top Federal Reserve official almost sealed the chance of a US rate cut later this month, with Thailand leading the pack as Fitch upgraded the country's outlook.

New York Fed President John Williams said on Thursday policymakers need to act quickly and cannot wait for economic problems to materialise to add stimulus, in comments that the market took as further assurances of rate cuts at the end of the month.

A Fed representative's clarification that the speech did not concern potential policy actions and was based on 20 years of research failed to dampen risk sentiment.

The market interpreted the Fed official's comments as dovish, ING group said in a note to clients, adding that the "go ahead on rate cut is seen to boost risk-taking in Asia".

Leading the charge in Southeast Asia, Thai stocks firmed 0.7%, helped by gains in financials.

Credit rating agency Fitch upgraded its outlook on Thailand to "positive" from "stable", saying the revision reflected increasing confidence that "lingering political risks are unlikely to derail sound macroeconomic management."

Lenders Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikornbank PCL were up 1.4% each.

Broader market sentiment was further sweetened by news that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts over the phone in a bid to reach a trade deal.

Indonesian shares rose, helped by the financial sector. Bank Central Asia and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) gained as much as 1% and 0.9%, respectively.

An index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks was up 0.4%.

Philippine stocks advanced, driven by the real estate and banking sectors. Property developer SM Prime Holdings rose 1.3%, while lender BDO Unibank was up 1%.   

SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS as at 0319 hrs
Change on the day

Market                 Current  Previous close  % move
Singapore              3374.25  3361.05         0.39
Bangkok                1735.85  1723.44         0.72
Manila                 8306.14  8258.05         0.58
Jakarta                6431.52  6403.294        0.44
Kuala Lumpur           1656.95  1648.93         0.49
Ho Chi Minh            981.26   976.05          0.53

Change so far in 2019

Market                 Current  End 2018        % move
Singapore              3374.25  3068.76         9.95
Bangkok                1735.85  1563.88         11.00
Manila                 8306.14  7,466.02        11.25
Jakarta                6431.52  6,194.50        3.83
Kuala Lumpur           1656.95  1690.58         -1.99
Ho Chi Minh            981.26   892.54          9.94