SE Asia Stocks-Most climb as stimulus boost eases recession fears

By Niyati Shetty

* Singapore shares hit their highest in a week * Investors await minutes of Fed July meet due on Wednesday * Philippine stocks down 1.2% By Niyati Shetty Aug 20 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets eked out gains on Tuesday as global policymakers step in to support their economies, in a bid to stave off a sharp economic slowdown, boosting riskier assets. Sentiment got a lift after China took steps to lower borrowing costs for companies and Germany hinted plans of ramping up government spending to counter a future crisis. The Washington Post on Monday reported that senior White House officials are discussing the possibility of a temporary payroll tax cut to boost the U.S. economy, reinforcing hopes that major economies will step in to ensure growth. The Singapore bourse extended gains to its highest in a week, boosted by real estate stocks. Capitaland Ltd and Hongkong Land Holdings Ltd were among the top gainers in the index, rising 1.7% and 2.3%, respectively. Hongkong Land is "among stocks that have underperformed the broader market but are now offering attractive buying opportunities due to their undemanding valuations," KGI Securities (Singapore) said in a note to clients. Gains in the regional markets, however, were capped as investors kept a cautious stance awaiting Wednesday's release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's July meeting. Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech at the end of the week might provide further insight on the central bank's policy stance. The Thai benchmark gained despite the central bank saying it would lower its 2019 growth forecast of 3.3% amid growing risks, as investors anticipate the proposed $10 billion stimulus package to boost economic growth. Malaysian equities advanced up to 0.3%, while the Vietnam index was poised to extend gains to a fifth straight session. Bucking the trend, Philippine stocks declined up to 1.2% after clocking gains in the previous session. "The decline is just a normalisation of the swing that we saw late yesterday (Monday)," said Charles William Ang, analyst, COL Financial Group. "If we consider the bigger picture we might just be in line with the regional markets." Losses in financial and consumer sectors pulled down the Philippine index, with Security Bank Corp falling up to 3% and Universal Robina Corp retreating 4.2%. Meanwhile, Indonesian stocks traded largely unchanged. The archipelago's finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Monday she wants to reduce foreigners' holdings of government bonds over the near-term to 20% from almost 40% currently, to reduce volatility in the financial markets. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0349 GMT Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3138.45 3128.45 0.32 Bangkok 1639.1 1637.26 0.11 Manila 7848.64 7938.35 -1.13 Jakarta 6300.567 6296.715 0.06 Kuala Lumpur 1599.83 1596.45 0.21 Ho Chi Minh 983.06 981.03 0.21 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3138.45 3068.76 2.27 Bangkok 1639.1 1563.88 4.81 Manila 7848.64 7,466.02 5.12 Jakarta 6300.567 6,194.50 1.71 Kuala Lumpur 1599.83 1690.58 -5.37 Ho Chi Minh 983.06 892.54 10.14 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)