SE Asia Stocks-Rise on trade optimism ahead of holidays; Philippines leads gains

    * Philippine index hits 1-week closing high
    * Singapore flat as Nov core inflation rate remains
    * 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
    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.

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 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)