SE Asia Stocks-Philippines recovers on hopes of lockdown easing; Thailand falls

Pranav A K

* Philippines Q1 GDP falls for first time since 1998 * Vietnam shares hit more than 2-week high * Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia closed for holiday By Pranav A K May 7 (Reuters) - Philippine shares reversed course to end higher on Thursday on hopes the country would soon ease its coronavirus-driven restrictions, while Thailand stocks fell on gloomy outlook for its economy. The Philippine benchmark gained 0.3%, recovering from a 0.7% fall earlier in the session after reporting an unexpected slowdown in first-quarter economic growth as the coronavirus pushes the economy towards a recession. "Investors brushed off the contraction in Q1 GDP with a possibility that the country may ease the lockdown after May 15 as mentioned by the administration," said Luis Limlingan, managing director at Manila-based brokerage firm Regina Capital Development Corp. After eight weeks of one of the world's strictest community quarantines, Manila is set to reopen its economy at the end of next week. Shares of conglomerate Ayala Corp gained 3.1% and helped boost the index, while real estate company Robinsons Land Corporation added 4%. On the flip side, The Thai stock index closed down 1.5% to clock its biggest one-day percentage loss April 16 as investors returned from a market holiday. A group of leading business associations in Thailand said Southeast Asia's second largest economy may shrink 3% to 5% this year, sharply down from growth of 1.5% to 2.0% projected in March. Thai stocks have risen about 30% from its March lows on hopes that the lockdown would be lifted but these gains are in danger as first-quarter earnings are expected to plummet and Q2 will likely be "even worse", said Sunthorn Thongthip, strategist for Kasikorn Securities. Financial stocks were the main laggards in Thailand, with Thaire Life Assurance PCL diving 9.3% and Ratchthani Leasing falling 6.6%. Helping market sentiment was data from China showing exports came in better-than-expected in April for the first time this year, suggesting factory activity in Southeast Asia's largest trading partner is recovering faster than expected. Vietnam shares rose 1.8% and posted third straight session of gains, lifted by consumer staples and financials. Shares of seafood processing company Vinh Hoan Corp and Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp leaped 7% each. Markets in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were closed on Thursday for a holiday. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Bangkok 1257.98 1278.63 -1.62 Manila 5653.16 5639.27 0.25 Ho Chi Minh 796.54 782.59 1.78 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Bangkok 1257.98 1579.84 -20.37 Manila 5653.16 7,815.26 -27.67 Ho Chi Minh 796.54 960.99 -17.11 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)