* Energy stocks lift Thailand, Vietnam * Singapore inflation shrinks for second consecutive month in March * Malaysia ends flat By Nikhil Subba April 23 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets finished higher on Thursday, with Thailand leading the gains, as risk sentiment improved backed by a recovery in oil prices and expectations of a fresh relief package in the United States. Oil rebounded from historic lows as it plunged into sub-zero levels earlier this week, amid signs that producers are cutting production to weather a collapse in demand as the coronavirus outbreak ravages world economies. This, along with expectations of the U.S. Congress approving a $484 billion coronavirus financial aid later on Thursday, gave Wall Street a boost overnight, which resultantly spilled over to the Southeast Asian region. "The market, hungry for any news to pick up oil from the oversold depths, was seen aiding with the climb in crude prices overnight...the lift for Wall Street overnight...is expected to likewise inspire the region," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at financial services firm IG. The energy sector propped up the Thai index, gaining the most in the region. It ended 0.85% higher, boosted by a 1.9% gain in Thai Oil. The Vietnamese index was also boosted by energy stocks, as it ended 0.7% higher. Petrovietnam Gas Joint Stock gained 2.5%. Indonesia, the region's largest economy, saw its benchmark finish 0.6% higher, boosted by consumer stocks. Unilever Indonesia firmed 5.6% to close to its highest since March 13, while Indofood settled 1.3% up. The Philippines' index ended 0.5% higher, with SM Investments Corp advancing 3.3% and Jollibee Foods gaining 1.5% at close. Meanwhile, the Singaporean benchmark finished the session 0.3% weaker. Singapore Technologies Engineering shed 2.1%, while Jardine Matheson Holdings slid 1.8% at close. Singapore's main price gauge contracted for a second consecutive month in March, data showed on Thursday, with prices falling 0.2% from a year earlier. The city-state has extended its one-month circuit breaker for another month until 1 June, which OCBC analysts say implies significant economic hardship and a deeper recession in the second quarter of 2020. Malaysia's benchmark closed little changed. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous Pct Move close Singapore 2542.37 2550.04 -0.30 Bangkok 1272.53 1261.81 0.85 Manila 5599.55 5573.75 0.46 Jakarta 4593.554 4567.562 0.57 Kuala Lumpur 1381.64 1381.89 -0.02 Ho Chi Minh 773.91 768.92 0.65 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 2542.37 3222.83 -21.11 Bangkok 1272.53 1579.84 -19.45 Manila 5599.55 7,815.26 -28.35 Jakarta 4593.554 6,299.54 -27.08 Kuala Lumpur 1381.64 1588.76 -13.04 Ho Chi Minh 773.91 960.99 -19.47 (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)
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