SE Asia Stocks-Most markets tepid; Philippines drops most on wider trade gap

    * U.S. Dec non-farm payrolls expected to fall - Reuters poll
    * Singapore set to post third straight weekly gain
    * Malaysia on track to snap the fifth weekly gain 

    By Sameer Manekar
    Jan 10 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets stayed
in tight trading ranges on Friday as investors adopted a
cautious stance ahead of the U.S. non-farm payrolls report,
while the Philippine index dropped the most after data showed a
wider trade deficit in November.
    Data from the United States on Thursday showed new
applications for U.S. jobless benefits falling more than
expected last week, but the labor market appears to be cooling,
with the number of Americans on unemployment rolls surging to
more than a 1-1/2-year high at the end of 2019.
    Analysts expect investor focus to shift to U.S. non-farm
payrolls, due later in the day, which according to a Reuters
poll are likely to fall from the previous print.
    Payrolls figures are always closely scrutinised by traders
as they are seen as an up-to-date gauge of U.S. economic health.
    "Ahead of the U.S. data, and with one eye on potential
weekend risks in the Middle East, Asia is likely to remain
positive but cautious today with the best of the day's gain
likely already behind us," Jeffrey Halley, an analyst at OANDA
    The Philippine bourse shed its gains from the
previous session, dropping up to 0.9%, after data showed that
the country's trade deficit had widened in November.
    The country's exports in November fell 0.7% from last year,
while its trade deficit widened to $3.34 billion from October's
deficit of $3.25 billion. 
    "The wider-than-expected trade gap ... appears to have
rekindled concerns about the current account deficit,
reminiscent of the 2018 episode, which also saw the index
retreat," ING senior economist Nicholas Mapa said, adding that
most analysts expect the trade gap to widen further in 2020.
    Losses in the Philippine index were led by SM Investments
Corp and JG Summit Holdings, which declined
0.8% and 2.5%, respectively.
    Malaysia's benchmark index was on track to snap its
fifth weekly gain, with consumer and telecom sectors losing the
most during the session.
    Sime Darby Plantation and Axiata Group
fell 0.9% and 1.4%, respectively.
    Thai equities were largely unchanged, with PTT Pcl
 and Advanced Info Service losing 1.1% and
0.5%, respectively.
    Singapore's benchmark index edged up, and was on
track to post a third consecutive weekly gain.

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 Market                 Current   Previous close  Pct Move
 Singapore              3251.98   3247.48          0.14
 Bangkok                1579.96   1579.64          0.02
 Manila                 7729.99   7797.64         -0.87
 Jakarta                6275.996  6274.493         0.02
 Kuala Lumpur           1591.9    1595.65         -0.24
 Ho Chi Minh            964.57    960.15           0.46
 Change so far in 2020                            
 Market                 Current   End 2019        Pct Move
 Singapore              3251.98   3222.83         0.90
 Bangkok                1579.96   1579.84         0.01
 Manila                 7729.99   7,815.26        -1.09
 Jakarta                6275.996  6,299.54        -0.37
 Kuala Lumpur           1591.9    1588.76         0.20
 Ho Chi Minh            964.57    960.99          0.37

 (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry