SE Asia Stocks-Indonesia rises after surprise trade surplus; Philippines falls

    * Indonesia posts first trade surplus in 5 months
    * Financials boost Singapore after tepid previous session
    * Philippines slips, industrial heavyweights fall

    By Rashmi Ashok
    March 15 (Reuters) - The Indonesian stock market rose on
Friday after data showed a surprise trade surplus last month,
while Singapore and Malaysia rose amid reports of progress in
Sino-U.S. talks, which somewhat tempered the cautious sentiment
gripping the region.
    Indonesian stocks jumped 0.6 percent, after the
largest economy in Southeast Asia posted a surprise trade
surplus in February for the first time in five months, as
imports unexpectedly fell sharply, according to data from its
statistics bureau.
    The country had a surplus of $329.5 million in February,
compared with a Reuters poll prediction of a $700 million gap. 
    "The slowdown on imports doesn't necessarily mean that
domestic demand is weak. I think part of it is due to the impact
of the policymakers' efforts to reduce imports, like selected
infrastructure projects... it appears that what they are doing
is now having its impact," said Leo Putra Rinaldy, economist at
PT Mandiri Sekuritas.
    Indonesia has been struggling to reduce its trade deficit,
after it hit a record high of $8.5 billion last year, with
authorities raising import taxes and relaxing export rules to
narrow the gap.
    Financial stocks boosted the benchmark, with Bank Negara
Indonesia (Persero) Tbk gaining 2.3 percent while 
Bank Central Asia Tbk rose about 0.5 percent.
    Singapore's index rose 0.4 percent, driven by
financial stocks, with DBS Group Holdings rising 0.6
percent and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd advancing
0.4 percent. 
    Reports of headway in trade talks between China, the
region's largest trading partner, and the United States appeared
to help sentiment, with broader Asian stocks also on the uptick.
    Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative
Robert Lighthizer, with the two sides making further substantive
progress on trade talks, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

    The Malaysian benchmark ticked up, with glove
manufacturer Top Glove Corporation Bhd rising 1.6
percent and food products retailer Nestle (Malaysia) Berhad
 up 0.4 percent.
    Meanwhile, Philippine stocks slipped 0.5 percent,
dragged by industrial stocks. Index heavyweights SM Investments
Corp and Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc dragged
the index, slipping 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
    Indexes of Thailand and Vietnam edged lower.
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 Change on the day                                
 Market                 Current   Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3209.75   3197.92         0.37
 Bangkok                1631.79   1635.88         -0.25
 Manila                 7712.51   7750.42         -0.49
 Jakarta                6452.695  6413.266        0.61
 Kuala Lumpur           1677.13   1674.52         0.16
 Ho Chi Minh            1005.54   1008.44         -0.29
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Market                 Current   End 2018        Pct Move
 Singapore              3209.75   3068.76         4.59
 Bangkok                1631.79   1563.88         4.34
 Manila                 7712.51   7,466.02        3.30
 Jakarta                6452.695  6,194.50        4.17
 Kuala Lumpur           1677.13   1690.58         -0.80
 Ho Chi Minh            1005.54   892.54          12.66

 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi