* Philippine index hits 1-week closing high * Singapore flat as Nov core inflation rate remains unchanged * Malaysian shares close at highest level since Aug. 9 By Shruti Sonal Dec 23 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian markets ended higher on Monday in thin trading ahead of year-end holidays, with Philippines leading gains, amid lingering optimism about the Sino-U.S. trade deal. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday Washington and Beijing had "achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal" and would "very shortly" sign it. Meanwhile, China said it will lower tariffs on products ranging from frozen pork and avocado to some type of semiconductors next year, as it looks to boost imports amid a slowing economy. Improving Sino-U.S. relations has resulted in more constructive global outlook, Singapore-based brokerage Phillip Futures said in a note. "With increasing justification hinting towards possible positive turning of the fundamentals, it is likely to act as a catalyst to keep global indices buoyant," the note added. Leading gains in the region, the Philippine index ended higher for a second straight session. It rose 1.3% to its highest closing level since Dec. 16, lifted by utilities and consumer stocks. Universal Robina Corp and Metro Pacific Investments Corp were the top percentage gainers on the index. The Philippine financial markets will remain closed on Dec. 24-25 for Christmas holidays. Thai stocks erased most of their early gains and ended nearly flat, as hopes of further monetary easing was capped as Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob raised concerns about the economy. The benchmark had hit its highest since Dec. 13 earlier in the day. In addition, data showed that Southeast Asia's second-largest economy recorded a trade surplus of $0.55 billion in November, compared with a Reuters forecast of a $0.19 billion deficit. The Malaysian benchmark pared early losses and closed at its highest level since Aug. 9, lifted by industrials and utilities. Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd were up over 1.2% and 1.9%, respectively. Meanwhile, Petronas Gas and Petronas Chemicals Group dropped as much as 3.5% and 2.6%, respectively, after Thailand called off a plan for its state-run power producer to import up to 1.5 million tonnes of LNG per annum from Petronas. Trade-sensitive Singapore shares ended slightly higher, as the city-state's core inflation rate for November remained unchanged. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3214 3212.39 0.05 Bangkok 1573.57 1572.92 0.04 Manila 7872.6 7773.12 1.28 Jakarta 6305.91 6284.372 0.34 Kuala Lumpur 1614.18 1610.18 0.25 Ho Chi Minh 959.43 956.41 0.32 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3214 3068.76 4.73 Bangkok 1573.57 1563.88 0.62 Manila 7872.6 7,466.02 5.45 Jakarta 6305.91 6,194.50 1.80 Kuala Lumpur 1614.18 1690.58 -4.52 Ho Chi Minh 959.43 892.54 7.49 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; Editing by Rashmi Aich)
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