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SE Asia Stocks-Most decline; markets await clues from Powell speech

By Niyati Shetty

* Markets await U.S. Fed Chair Powell's speech due late Friday * Philippine set to fall for a third straight session * Singapore core inflation seen slowing to near 3-yr low - poll By Niyati Shetty Aug 23 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets dropped on Friday as investors kept to the sidelines amid uncertainty over the outlook of U.S. interest rates, while fears of a global economic slowdown persisted. The U.S. Federal Reserve has come under increasing pressure to cut borrowing costs more, including a call by President Donald Trump on Wednesday for the central bank to reduce its benchmark rate. With U.S. bond markets signalling a looming recession, markets are also eagerly awaiting a speech by Fed chair, Jerome Powell, who is due to speak at a gathering of global policymakers later in the day. "The rhetoric from a few regional Fed Presidents yesterday (Thursday) underscored the divided tone within the Fed and reinforced market view that there is no pre-set path for more rate cuts," OCBC Bank said in note. Philippine stocks declined to a more than one-week low, with real estate firms weighing on the index for a second session after China urged the Manila government to ban online gaming and support its crackdown on cross-border gambling. Conglomerate Alliance Global Group, casino hotels operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp and property firm Ayala Land were among the top laggards, retreating as much as 4.5%, 3.1% and 1.7%, respectively. Singapore equities dropped ahead of the city-state's inflation data, with conglomerate Jardine Matheson Holdings slipping up to 1.2% and Singapore Technologies Engineering losing 1.7%. The country's core inflation is seen easing to its slowest pace in nearly three years, a Reuters poll showed, shoring up expectations that the local central bank will loosen policy later this year to boost the economy. The Jakarta index was little changed a day after Bank Indonesia unexpectedly trimmed key interest rates by 25 basis points for a second straight month, a pre-emptive move in anticipation of a flagging global economy. Bucking the trend, the Thai index advanced up to 0.6%, and was slated to post gains of 0.4% for the week. Airports of Thailand added 0.7% and PTT PCL climbed 1.2%. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0330 GMT Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3118.06 3127.74 -0.31 Bangkok 1639.22 1633.56 0.35 Manila 7776.29 7848.83 -0.92 Jakarta 6235.901 6239.245 -0.05 Kuala Lumpur 1601.51 1602.47 -0.06 Ho Chi Minh 995.58 997.26 -0.17 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3118.06 3068.76 1.61 Bangkok 1639.22 1563.88 4.82 Manila 7776.29 7,466.02 4.16 Jakarta 6235.901 6,194.50 0.67 Kuala Lumpur 1601.51 1690.58 -5.27 Ho Chi Minh 995.58 892.54 11.54 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)