December 23, 2019 / 4:43 AM / 2 months ago

SE Asia Stocks-Thailand rises on rate-cut hopes; Petronas units drag down Malaysia

    * Singapore slips ahead of core inflation data
    * Thailand calls off LNG import plan with Petronas
    * Thai cenbank has not closed door to further easing - gov

    By Shruti Sonal
    Dec 23 (Reuters) - Thai stocks gained on Monday as comments
by the central bank chief boosted hopes of further rate cuts,
while units of Petronas dragged down Malaysia after Bangkok
dropped a plan to import liquefied natural gas from the
state-run oil and gas giant.
    The Bank of Thailand has not shut the door to further
monetary policy easing if the economic situation is worse than
expected, Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told a business
seminar.
    Last week, it left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at
a record low after two cuts this year, and lowered its growth
forecasts for this year and next as exports take a hit from the
Sino-U.S. trade war and a strong baht.
    The benchmark SET Index hit its highest since Dec.
13, with healthcare and energy stocks leading the gains.
    Boosting investor sentiment, data showed the economy
recorded a trade surplus of $0.55 billion in November, compared
with a Reuters forecast of a $0.19 billion deficit.
    Malaysian equities retreated after Friday's sharp
gains, dragged by index heavyweights Petronas Gas Bhd
and Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd.
    Petronas Gas and Petronas Chemicals dropped as much as 3.5%
and 2.6%, respectively, after Thailand called off a plan for its
state-run power producer to import up to 1.5 million tonnes of
LNG per annum from Petronas.
    Trading in most other Southeast Asian markets was thin as
investors avoided making big bets ahead of the year-end holidays
despite positive developments on the Sino-U.S. trade war front. 
    U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday Washington and
Beijing had "achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal" and
would "very shortly" sign it.
    Meanwhile, China said it will lower tariffs on products
ranging from frozen pork and avocado to some type of
semiconductors next year, as it looks to boost imports amid a
slowing economy.
    Profit-taking is "dominating the markets" despite positive
news on global trade, said Nicholas Antonio Mapa, a senior
economist at ING.
    Singapore shares fell slightly ahead of November core
inflation data due to be released later in the day. The
city-state's consumer price index likely grew 0.6% last month
from a year earlier, according to analysts polled by Reuters.
   
    
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS As at 0335 GMT
 Change on the day                                
 Market                 Current   Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3208.55   3212.39         -0.12
 Bangkok                1580      1572.92         0.45
 Manila                 7799.41   7773.12         0.34
 Jakarta                6278.859  6284.372        -0.09
 Kuala Lumpur           1607.78   1610.18         -0.15
 Ho Chi Minh            960.19    956.41          0.40
                                                  
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Market                 Current   End 2018        Pct Move
 Singapore              3208.55   3068.76         4.56
 Bangkok                1580      1563.88         1.03
 Manila                 7799.41   7,466.02        4.47
 Jakarta                6278.859  6,194.50        1.36
 Kuala Lumpur           1607.78   1690.58         -4.90
 Ho Chi Minh            960.19    892.54          7.58
 
 (Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
  
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