* Singapore cuts 2020 GDP forecast, unveils stimulus package * Philippines set to ease restrictions by June * Thailand hits highest close since early March By Arundhati Dutta May 26 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets closed higher on Tuesday as further moves to ease the coronavirus lockdowns and hopes of more stimulus from China boosted sentiment, while the Philippines ended lower even though it pared steep early losses. Japan lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo, while major European economies, including France and Spain, were also returning to business. Biggest regional trading partner China aided sentiment after its central bank promised to strengthen economic policy and push for lower interest rates on loans. Leading gains in Southeast Asia, Indonesian equities added 1.8%, with the financial sector contributing to nearly half the index's gains. PT Bank Central Asia Tbk rose 4.3%. In Singapore, markets looked past a third economic downgrade for 2020 which signalled its deepest-ever recession, as the city-state unveiled its fourth multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. The benchmark index ended 1.4% higher, with heavyweight Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd, up 8%, the biggest gainer. Thai stocks jumped 1.1%, and touched their highest closing level since early March, helped by the industrial and consumer discretionary sectors. However, the Philippine index closed 0.8% lower, after dropping more than 2% in early trade, amid expectations of gradually easing lockdown restrictions by June. Local media here reported that 14 of 17 mayors in Metro Manila are in favour of downgrading quarantine restrictions in the National Capital Region after May 31. Investors were holding off on riskier assets, awaiting updates on how business will be conducted after May, according to analysts at Regina Capital. Restaurant operator Jollibee Foods Corp, which shed 10.3%, was the top drag on the index after flagging lower sales in the coming months in an earnings update on Friday. Vietnam closed up 1.2% while Malaysian markets were closed for a holiday. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous Pct Move close Singapore 2530.3 2499.83 1.22 Bangkok 1336.09 1320.98 1.14 Manila 5496.83 5539.19 -0.76 Jakarta 4626.799 4545.952 1.78 Ho Chi Minh 869.13 859.04 1.17 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 2530.3 3222.83 -21.49 Bangkok 1336.09 1579.84 -15.43 Manila 5496.83 7,815.26 -29.67 Jakarta 4626.799 6,299.54 -26.55 Ho Chi Minh 869.13 960.99 -9.56 (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)
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