SE Asia Stocks-Most rise on hopes of trade deal, Malaysia leads pack

By Shreya Mariam Job

* Singapore posts near two-week closing high * Philippine c-bank holds key interest rates By Shreya Mariam Job Feb 7 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Thursday with Malaysia leading the gains, as optimism over a trade deal between the U.S. and China were renewed following indications of further official talks in Beijing next week. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he and other U.S. officials would travel to Beijing to continue trade talks, eyeing a deal before the March 2 deadline. China is the biggest trading partner of the region. With easing trade frictions, a dovish Fed and prospects of increased infrastructure spending, foreign investors are now returning to Southeast Asian markets, propelling these markets to record an upward trend for the most part. So far this year, foreign investors have been net buyers of stocks in markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The Malaysian benchmark rose 0.6 percent, leading gains in the region after thin trading in the region this week due to a two-day closure on account of the Chinese New Year. Utilities and consumer cyclicals boosted the Malaysian benchmark index, with Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Maxis Bhd climbing 3.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. The Singapore index gained 0.5 percent to its highest level since Jan. 25, helped by telecom and industrial stocks. "Singapore equities has some catching up to do as the U.S. markets have done well over the last two trading sessions. At the same time, traders are also placing bets ahead of the budget on February 18, 2019," said Liu Jinshu, head of research at Tayrona Financial Pte Ltd. Shares of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd gained 1 percent while those of Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd firmed 1.3 percent. The Philippine stock index climbed 0.5 percent, with gains concentrated in industrial stocks. SM Investments Corp and JG Summit Holdings Inc gained over 2 percent each. The Philippine central bank kept its benchmark interest rate steady for a second straight meeting on Thursday, saying inflation risk had fallen on lower crude oil and food prices. Meanwhile, the Thai index dipped 0.3 percent, dragged by consumer and health care stocks. Shares of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services PCL and Siam Makro PCL dropped 1.3 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively. A Thai shipping body on Thursday said Thailand's exports may stagnate this year if the U.S.-Sino trade dispute continues and the baht keeps strengthening. Indonesian stocks also ended the session slightly lower, hurt by consumer and financial stocks. Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk PT slipped 2.8 percent, while Bank Central Asia Tbk PT slid 0.5 percent. Vietnam financial markets remained closed for Chinese New Year holidays. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3200.64 3184.56 0.50 Bangkok 1653.11 1658.71 -0.34 Manila 8100.3 8058.45 0.52 Jakarta 6536.457 6547.877 -0.17 Kuala Lumpur 1693.39 1683.61 0.58 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3200.64 3068.76 4.30 Bangkok 1653.11 1563.88 5.71 Manila 8100.3 7,466.02 8.50 Jakarta 6536.457 6,194.50 5.52 Kuala Lumpur 1693.39 1690.58 0.17 (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)