South-east Asia stocks: Philippines falls over 2%; most others start new year on positive note

A trader talking on his mobile phone during the last trading day of the year at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Taguig, on Dec 27, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - Philippine shares slumped over 2 per cent to their lowest in about two weeks on utilities and industrials, while most other South-east Asian stock markets started the new year in the green amid Sino-United States trade deal progress.

The Philippine index extended losses for the third straight session, on their first trading day since Dec 27, 2019.

"Foreign outflows continue to put pressure on the market, and we may see no respite just yet until the issues on the water concessionaires' contracts are clarified", an AP Securities note said.

Utilities and industrials have been strained since Philippines' water regulator cancelled the extension of concession deals with the country's two largest utilities Manila Water Co Inc and Maynilad Water Services after pressure from President Rodrigo Duterte.

DMCI Holdings and Metro Pacific Investments Corp, major shareholders of Maynilad Water Services, slumped as much as 6.8 per cent and 8.1 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, most other markets in the region gained on their first trading day of 2020, buoyed by easing Sino-US trade tensions and positive policy thrust from China.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Phase One of the trade deal with China would be signed on Jan 15 at the White House, though considerable confusion remains about the details of the agreement.

News of monetary policy easing by China, the region's top trade partner, also aided sentiment after the country's central bank on Wednesday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves to boost the economy.

Amid the trade deal cheer and Beijing's policy thrust, the "market is set to start 2020 on a solid footing", said Zhu Huani, an analyst at Mizuho Bank in a note.

Trade-sensitive Singapore shares rose as its fourth quarter GDP data came in line with expectations firmed expectations for a modest recovery in 2020.

Thai and Malaysian stocks gained over 0.4 per cent each, while Indonesian equities edged lower.

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