SE Asia Stocks-Slump on U.S.-China row over Hong Kong, trade deal uncertainty

By Arundhati Dutta

* Philippines shares hit almost six-week low * Indonesia cenbank rate decision due later * Singapore economy grows 0.5% y/y in Q3 By Arundhati Dutta Nov 21 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets opened sharply lower on Thursday as the United States and China sparred over U.S. bills on Hong Kong and concerns emerged that an interim trade deal may not be signed this year. The U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills on Wednesday backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law. Sapping investor sentiment further, trade experts and people close to the White House said completion of an initial trade agreement could slide into next year, as Beijing and Washington were unable to agree to terms of tariff rollbacks. Philippines shares fell more than 1% to their lowest level in almost six weeks, dragged by blue chips Aboitiz Power Corp and Ayala Corp, which skidded 1.7% and 1.5%, respectively. Singapore stocks slid 1.2% in early trade to a more than three-week low. The market recovered slightly later as data showed the city-state's economy dodged recession and grew better than expected in the third quarter. Singapore's GDP rose 0.5% year-on-year, beating the government's advance estimate and matching the growth forecast in a Reuters poll. Liu Jinshu, director of research at Tayrona Capital Pte Ltd, said he expected losses to narrow further, given the market's resilience and low volatility so far. "In terms of yield, our local banks are pretty attractive," he added. The Singapore stock market has been the region's second best performer this year after Vietnam, racking up a near 5% gain. Indonesian equities slipped by 0.6%, with financials weighing on the index ahead of the Bank Indonesia's policy meeting later in the day. Most analysts expect the central bank to leave policy rates unchanged, having cut rates four times back to back this year. "A patient pause will afford BI scope to ease further in 2020 should global headwinds to growth pick up, while inflation is likely to stay within target," ING analysts said in a note. Malaysian shares dropped 0.7% to their lowest since Nov. 1, while Thai stocks declined for a third straight session. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS at 0313 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3205.52 3229.78 -0.75 Bangkok 1593.94 1596.83 -0.18 Manila 7789.37 7898.06 -1.38 Jakarta 6117.639 6155.109 -0.61 Kuala Lumpur 1590.34 1601.14 -0.67 Ho Chi Minh 999.5 1000.56 -0.11 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3205.52 3068.76 4.46 Bangkok 1593.94 1563.88 1.92 Manila 7789.37 7,466.02 4.33 Jakarta 6117.639 6,194.50 -1.24 Kuala Lumpur 1590.34 1690.58 -5.93 Ho Chi Minh 999.5 892.54 11.98 (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)