SE Asia Stocks-Most markets rise; Philippine up ahead of likely rate cut

By Shruti Sonal

* Philippine cenbank rate decision due around 0800 GMT * Jump in palm oil prices lifts Malaysian benchmark * Singapore stocks hit highest since Jan. 27 By Shruti Sonal Feb 6 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Thursday as investors picked up beaten-down stocks, with the Philippine index gaining ahead of a widely-expected interest rate cut. While most indexes clocked small gains in the last two sessions, current levels stand nowhere close to what they were at before Jan. 20 when the coronavirus outbreak first drew the attention of global markets. Since then, major regional markets such as Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines have shed 2%-5%. "Bargain-hunting and hopes of an accommodative stance to be adopted by more central banks in the region as a cautionary response to the virus outbreak has lifted sentiment," Joel Ng, analyst at KGI Securities said. Traders cited unconfirmed reports of a possible vaccine or drug breakthrough for the coronavirus as a trigger for a broader rally on Wednesday, although they also said such a catalyst was also likely to be an excuse for short-covering. The World Health Organization too played down such reports of drug breakthroughs. "While this may have supported risk-taking, we don't see much substance in these reports just yet and we are sceptical the risk rally will continue", analysts at ING said in a note. Malaysian equities led gains with a near 1% jump as a rally in palm oil prices boosted the benchmark. Sime Darby Plantation, the world's largest oil palm planter by land size, rose 1.4%. The Philippine benchmark climbed 0.9% ahead of its central bank's meeting. Nine of 11 economists polled by Reuters said it will cut the rate on its overnight reverse repurchase facility by 25 basis points to 3.75%. Aiding sentiment was economic data from United States which showed the country's trade deficit falling for the first time in six years in 2019 along with a pick-up in services sector activity last month. Trade-sensitive Singapore shares rose as much as 0.8% to hit their highest since Jan. 27, buoyed by financials and industrials. Index heavyweights Comfortdelgro Corporation Ltd and SATS Ltd gained more than 2% each. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS at 0324 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3210.13 3200.13 0.31 Bangkok 1536.36 1534.14 0.14 Manila 7405.9 7352.85 0.72 Jakarta 5976.096 5978.51 -0.04 Kuala Lumpur 1549.22 1536.79 0.81 Ho Chi Minh 929.62 925.91 0.40 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 3210.13 3222.83 -0.39 Bangkok 1536.36 1579.84 -2.75 Manila 7405.9 7,815.26 -5.24 Jakarta 5976.096 6,299.54 -5.13 Kuala Lumpur 1549.22 1588.76 -2.49 Ho Chi Minh 929.62 960.99 -3.26 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; editing by Uttaresh.V)