* 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 said. 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. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0454 GMT 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 Jacob-Phillips)
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