SE Asia Stocks-End firmer as China halves tariffs on some U.S. goods

By Shruti Sonal

* Further tariff cuts depend on bilateral developments, China says * The Philippine index surges as commits to 50 bps cuts * Singapore index hits highest close since Jan. 27 By Shruti Sonal Feb 6 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stocks closed firmer on Thursday after China decided to slash tariffs on some U.S. imports, offering relief to markets that were gripped by slowdown worries amid the coronavirus outbreak. Broader Asian markets clocked in strong gains on news that China - the region's largest trading partner - plans to halve additional tariffs levied against 1,717 U.S. goods last year, even as it reiterated its aim to eventually scrap all tariffs that had been levied during the trade war. Markets were already beginning to emerge from safe-haven assets and bet on the virus being a short-term shock, even while the human toll continues to grow. Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died from the virus, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country's health authority said on Thursday. Trade-sensitive Singapore shares climbed nearly 1% to hit their highest close since Jan. 27, with index heavyweights Jardine Strategic Holdings and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd ending up 1.3% and 1.5%, respectively. Leading gains in the region, the Philippine index ended 2.1% higher after the central bank governor said it was prepared to loosen policy further to protect growth. After the closing bell, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas trimmed its key interest rate to shield the economy from the impact of the coronavirus. Property developer SM Prime Holdings Inc, the top percentage gainer in the Philippine index, closed nearly 6% firmer. Elsewhere, Malaysian equities climbed more than 1% as a rally in palm oil prices boosted shares of the edible oil producers, which have a heavy weightage on the benchmark. Sime Darby Plantation, the world's largest oil palm planter by land size, ended up nearly 1%. Indonesian shares, which rose up to 0.6% earlier in the day, pared gains after the country's tourism minister flagged a possible $4 billion hit in tourism-related earnings if travel from China is disrupted for the whole year due to the virus outbreak. Meanwhile, Thai equities gained marginally to end a tick higher after the central bank signalled more room to help economy if necessary, a day after cutting the benchmark policy rate to a record low. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3231.55 3200.13 0.98 Bangkok 1535.79 1534.14 0.11 Manila 7506.51 7352.85 2.09 Jakarta 5987.145 5978.51 0.14 Kuala Lumpur 1552.77 1536.79 1.04 Ho Chi Minh 938.54 925.91 1.36 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 3231.55 3222.83 0.27 Bangkok 1535.79 1579.84 -2.79 Manila 7506.51 7,815.26 -3.95 Jakarta 5987.145 6,299.54 -4.96 Kuala Lumpur 1552.77 1588.76 -2.27 Ho Chi Minh 938.54 960.99 -2.34 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)