SE Asia Stocks-Philippines, Singapore gain on rate cut hopes

By Shruti Sonal

* MAS says policy stance unchanged, but signals room for easing * Thai decision due later in the day * Philippine Jan inflation rises, but rate cut still likely * Indonesia Q4 GDP growth rate slower-than-expected By Shruti Sonal Feb 5 (Reuters) - Philippine stocks rose on Wednesday, boosted by expectations of an interest rate cut despite a surprise jump in January inflation, while Singapore shares gained after its central bank said it had room to ease policy if required. The Philippine index gained more than 1.3%, with index heavyweights San Miguel Corp and GT Capital Holdings Inc jumping about 5% and 3%, respectively. Data showed January inflation was at its highest in eight months, but the outcome was still within the Philippine central bank's comfort range and supported views that it will likely cut rates at its meeting on Thursday. "Given the bleak outlook for global growth and dissipating threats to the inflation outlook, BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) will likely keep its foot on the easing pedal to help bolster sagging growth momentum", Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING for Philippines said. Singapore stocks rose 0.6%, buoyed by financials and industrials, after the central bank signalled it had room for easing if required, amid an economy sapped by the virus outbreak. Jardine Strategic Holdings and UOL Group Ltd gained about 2% each. Most other regional markets posted minor gains as hopes rose for more stimulus measures by China to limit the economic impact due to a virus outbreak that has killed nearly 500 people. China is readying more measures to stabilize its economy, which includes an additional trimming of some key lending rates in the coming weeks along with the hundreds of billions of dollars it has already infused in the financial system. Thai equities also rose marginally ahead of a central bank meeting later in the day. The Bank of Thailand is largely expected to keep rates on hold, but "odds of a preemptive cut are rising" in light of the impact of the virus on tourism earnings, DBS Economics & Strategy analysts said in a note. Indonesian shares, which rose as much as 0.8% earlier in the day, pared some gains after data showed its economy grew at a slower-than-expected rate in the final quarter of 2019. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS at 0327 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3173.75 3156.57 0.54 Bangkok 1520.82 1519.38 0.09 Manila 7317.05 7226.9 1.25 Jakarta 5955.41 5922.339 0.56 Kuala Lumpur 1533.34 1535.8 -0.16 Ho Chi Minh 926.26 929.09 -0.30 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 3173.75 3222.83 -1.52 Bangkok 1520.82 1579.84 -3.74 Manila 7317.05 7,815.26 -6.37 Jakarta 5955.41 6,299.54 -5.46 Kuala Lumpur 1533.34 1588.76 -3.49 Ho Chi Minh 926.26 960.99 -3.61 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; editing by Uttaresh.V)