SE Asia Stocks-Most end lower as China virus scare looms; Philippines climbs

By Soumyajit Saha

* Worries about China virus grow ahead of Lunar New Year * Data shows Singapore inflation picked up slightly in Dec * Indonesia's central bank keeps interest rates unchanged * Philippine cenbank says 7% growth attainable in 2020 By Soumyajit Saha Jan 23 (Reuters) - Most Southeast stock markets ended lower on Thursday as mounting concerns of a coronavirus outbreak in China sapped confidence, while the Philippine index marked its best session in more than three months as traders picked up beaten-down stocks. Investors remained anxious about the spread of the virus as China ordered a lockdown on Wuhan, a central Chinese city of 11 million people, ahead of the travel-heavy Chinese New Year holiday. Leading losses in the region, Singapore shares hit their lowest close in two weeks with United Overseas Bank falling 0.7% and conglomerate Jardine Matheson Holdings dropping 1.5%. "A lot of things are still not known about this new virus scare, so markets are bound to be very cautious," a trader with Maybank Kim Eng Securities said, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Sentiment dropped further after data showed that the city-state's core inflation rate picked up slightly in December. The Thai index traded flat in the absence of any market-moving catalysts, while Malaysian shares hit their lowest close in more than a month, dented by healthcare and consumer sectors. Latex glove manufacturer Hartalega Holdings fell 2.6%, while conglomerate Genting Bhd closed 2.3% weaker. Bucking the sombre mood, the Philippine benchmark index rose almost 2% after the central bank said gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7% was attainable for 2020. Real estate developer Ayala Land advanced 3.6%, while packaged food producer Universal Robina Corp ended 5.2% firmer. "I would look into the performance over the last few days, which is mostly weak, so today's bounce back mostly looks like bargain-hunting from investors," said Charles William Ang, associate analyst at COL Financial Group. Gains in the resources and consumer sectors helped Indonesian stocks snap three sessions of losses, with Chandra Asri Petrochemical advancing 1.3%, while cigarette maker Gudang Garam ended 1.1% firmer. Indonesia's central bank kept interest rates unchanged at its first policy meeting of the year, noting the country's economic cycle had past its lowest point and promising to remain "accommodative". The Vietnam bourse was closed for a public holiday. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3234.56 3253.93 -0.60 Bangkok 1573.7 1574.59 -0.06 Manila 7616.35 7468.73 1.98 Jakarta 6249.21 6233.453 0.25 Kuala Lumpur 1574.44 1577.98 -0.22 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 3234.56 3222.83 0.36 Bangkok 1573.7 1579.84 -0.39 Manila 7616.35 7,815.26 -2.55 Jakarta 6249.21 6,299.54 -0.80 Kuala Lumpur 1574.44 1588.76 -0.90 Ho Chi Minh 991.46 960.99 3.17 (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)