March 15, 2019 / 10:09 AM / 5 months ago

SE Asia Stocks-Indonesia rises on surprise trade surplus, Philippines ends higher

    * Indonesia jumps after first trade surplus in 5 months
    * Indonesia posts 3rd day of gains, rises 1.2 pct for week
    * Philippines makes U-turn, rises as Jan remittances up 4.4
    * Vietnam snaps 3 sessions of gains, but gains 1.9 pct
during week

    By Rashmi Ashok
    March 15 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stocks advanced on
Friday, with Indonesia gaining after the nation posted a
surprise trade surplus in February, while Philippines erased
losses to end higher as January remittances rose.
    Indonesian stocks jumped 0.8 percent, gaining 1.2
percent during the week, after the country posted its first
trade surplus in five months in February, as imports
unexpectedly fell sharply, according to data from the statistics
    The country had a surplus of $329.5 million in February,
compared with a Reuters poll prediction of a $700 million
    "The slowdown in 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. 
    Meanwhile, Philippine stocks reversed course, wiping
out the day's loss of 0.6 percent to close with as much gains.
    The index was boosted by real estate stocks, with SM Prime
Holdings Inc and Ayala Land Inc rising 3.5
percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
    Fortunes of the index changed after data released by the
Philippine Central Bank showed that the country's January
remittances rose 4.4 percent from the previous year to $2.484
    Noting that median estimates had pegged growth to settle at
4 percent for January, ING said in a note, "Remittances continue
to provide a steady stream of foreign currency but have yet to
break out of the 3-5 percent growth range they have been stuck
in recent years." 
    The data appeared to help the market shake off the subdued
sentiment that had prevailed after the Philippines on Wednesday
cut its 2019 GDP growth target, citing a delay in final
legislative approval of the budget.
    Malaysian stocks also rose, with food products
manufacturer Nestle (Malaysia) Berhad gaining 0.5
percent and lender Hong Leong Bank Bhd adding 2.6
    Vietnam index edged lower, snapping three straight
sessions of gains, but was the best performer during the week,
gaining about 1.9 percent.
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 Change on the day                                
 Market                 Current   Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3200.18   3197.92         0.07
 Bangkok                1625.57   1635.88         -0.63
 Manila                 7798.28   7750.42         0.62
 Jakarta                6461.183  6413.266        0.75
 Kuala Lumpur           1680.54   1674.52         0.36
 Ho Chi Minh            1004.12   1008.44         -0.43
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Market                 Current   End 2018        Pct Move
 Singapore              3200.18   3068.76         4.28
 Bangkok                1625.57   1563.88         3.94
 Manila                 7798.28   7,466.02        4.45
 Jakarta                6461.183  6,194.50        4.31
 Kuala Lumpur           1680.54   1690.58         -0.59
 Ho Chi Minh            1004.12   892.54          12.50

 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Shreejay
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