March 22, 2019 / 4:16 AM / 4 months ago

SE Asia Stocks-Philippines lead gains in thin trade on inflation forecast cut

    * Philippines rises to over five-week high
    * Malaysia on track to post fourth consecutive loss

    By Shreya Mariam Job
    March 22 (Reuters) - Philippines led gains across Southeast
Asian stocks markets on Friday after its central bank cut 2019
inflation forecast, but trading volume remained thin across the
region as a cautious U.S. Federal Reserve outlook kept investors
on the sidelines.    
    The Philippine benchmark rose 0.9 percent to its
highest since Feb. 13 on the back of industrials and real estate
stocks after the central bank policy decision was announced
after market hours on Thursday. 
    Philippine central bank kept its benchmark interest rate
steady for a third straight meeting and also cut their average
inflation forecast for this year to 3.0 percent, down from its
previous forecast of 3.07 percent.
    The country's central bank had adopted a rigorous rate hike
cycle last year between May and November, totalling 175 basis
points in a feat to cool inflation rates that had reached a
near-decade peak.    
    "It (inflation forecast cut) is more of an indirect signal
that BSP (Bangko Sentral Pilipinas) is ready to do some easing
of monetary policy soon," said Rachelle C Cruz, an analyst at AP
    Shares of SM Investment Corp and Universal Robina
Corp firmed 1.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
    In terms of interest rates, the new U.S. Fed projections
knocked the number of hikes expected this year to zero from the
two forecast in December, completing a pivot to a less
aggressive policy in the face of an apparent jump in economic
    "The dovish stance of the U.S. Fed is more because of the
impact of the trade war," Rachelle added, expecting a possible
rate cut by the Fed in 2020.
    Meanwhile, Malaysian shares continued to show
weakness into the fourth consecutive session hurt by losses in
the energy and consumer sectors.
    Malaysia's economy remained in deflation for the second
month in a row in February, with the consumer price index
falling 0.4 percent from a year earlier, government data showed
on Friday.
    Other equity markets in the region swung in a thin range of
0.07 percent to 0.2 percent in a day of lacklustre trade.
For Asian Companies click;  

 Change on the day                                
 Market                 Current   Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3211.82   3213.65         -0.06
 Bangkok                1636.6    1634            0.16
 Manila                 8022.73   7954.72         0.85
 Jakarta                6497.513  6501.776        -0.07
 Kuala Lumpur           1658.41   1663.66         -0.32
 Ho Chi Minh            983.94    981.78          0.22
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Market                 Current   End 2018        Pct Move
 Singapore              3211.82   3068.76         4.66
 Bangkok                1636.6    1563.88         4.65
 Manila                 8022.73   7,466.02        7.46
 Jakarta                6497.513  6,194.50        4.89
 Kuala Lumpur           1658.41   1690.58         -1.90
 Ho Chi Minh            983.94    892.54          10.24
 (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi
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