REUTERS - Singapore stocks hit their highest in more than a year on Thursday, while other Southeast Asian stocks gained in line with broader Asia on expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) would extend its asset buying programme.
The ECB is expected to extend its quantitative easing programme (QE) by six months in a decision, while keeping the size of its monthly asset purchases unchanged, according to a majority of economists polled by Reuters last week. The ECB will announce its policy decisions at 1245 GMT.
While the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate hike expected this month is already priced in, hopes of an extension of the ECB's stimulus program are among the reasons for the rally, said Mikey Macainag, an analyst with Manila-based Sunsecurities Inc.
Sentiment was also boosted after China reported upbeat trade figures with exports and imports in November beating forecasts.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 1.2 percent to hit a one-month high.
Singapore rose as much as 0.7 percent hitting its highest since November last year, led by financials and telecom stocks.
Singapore Telecommunications Ltd boosted the index most, hitting a four-week high, while StarHub Ltd gained over 2 percent.
United Overseas Bank Ltd added 1.3 percent to touch a 15-month high, while Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd gained for a fourth straight session.
Philippine shares rose as much as 1.2 percent to a more-than-two-week high.
"Right now (Philippine shares) are in oversold territory and they are also ripe for the 'Santa Claus rally'," Macainag added.
Real estate stocks and utilities led the gains, with Ayala Land Inc rising as much as 2.9 percent and SM Prime Holdings Inc hitting its highest in over a month.
Property companies, which lease to outsourcing enterprises, had fallen after the election of Donald Trump in the United States.
"It's still too early to say what the Trump administration will do about the BPO companies.. the only thing they can do about it is to increase the taxes," Macainag said.
Indonesian stocks rebounded after falling in the previous session.
Reporting by Geo Tharappel in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri