March 5, 2020 / 10:23 AM / in a month

SE Asia Stocks-Thailand rises on rate cut prospects; others post slim gains

    * Lower-than-expected Thai inflation boosts rate cut
    * Indonesia loses after gaining more than 5% over last 2

    By Shruti Sonal
    March 5 (Reuters) - Thailand shares closed at their highest
level in a week on Thursday after lower-than-expected inflation
lifted rate cut hopes, while other Southeast Asian markets eked
out marginal gains as concerns over the impact of the
coronavirus lingered.
    The Thai benchmark closed up 0.9%, as the February
inflation data came in ahead of the Bank of Thailand's policy
meeting scheduled for later in the month.
    "The big picture is that the combination of weak price
pressures, heightened growth risks, and rising pressure for a
coordinated global response to the COVID-19 outbreak suggests a
further rate cut by the Bank of Thailand now looks more likely
than not", ANZ Research analysts wrote in a note.
    Risk sentiment across Asian markets was boosted by U.S.
presidential candidate Joe Biden's success in the Democratic
primaries and robust U.S. services sector data for February.

    Gains were however capped as the global spread of the virus
fuelled growth warnings. The International Monetary Fund said on
Wednesday that the epidemic has crushed hopes for stronger
growth this year.
    Adding to worries, a Reuters poll showed that China's
exports and imports likely tumbled in the first two months of
the year, as businesses and global supply chains were disrupted.
China is the region's biggest trading partner.
    The Philippine benchmark ended 0.3% higher, after
rising as much as 1% during the session, shrugging off data that
showed annual inflation slowed for the first time in four months
in February.
    Restaurant operator Jollibee Foods Corp rose over
5% and was the biggest percentage gainer on the index. 
    The Vietnamese index also strengthened, held firm by
gains in energy stocks after oil prices rose ahead of an OPEC
meeting to discuss supply cuts.  
    Indonesian equities, which had gained over 5% over
last two sessions, ended marginally lower on losses in
    Bank Mega Tbk PT and Bank Negara Indonesia
(Persero) Tbk PT shed over 4% and 2%, respectively.

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 Change on the day                               
 Market                 Current  Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3018.27  3025.03         -0.22
 Bangkok                1390.83  1378.61         0.89
 Manila                 6884.77  6867.26         0.25
 Jakarta                5638.13  5650.136        -0.21
 Kuala Lumpur           1491.03  1489.95         0.07
 Ho Chi Minh            893.31   889.37          0.44
 Change so far in 2020                           
 Market                 Current  End 2019        Pct Move
 Singapore              3018.27  3222.83         -6.35
 Bangkok                1390.83  1579.84         -11.96
 Manila                 6884.77  7,815.26        -11.91
 Jakarta                5638.13  6,299.54        -10.50
 Kuala Lumpur           1491.03  1588.76         -6.15
 Ho Chi Minh            893.31   960.99          -7.04

 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; Editing by xxxx)
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