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CORRECTED-SE Asia Stocks-Most rise as China rate reforms boost sentiment (Aug 19)

By Niyati Shetty

(Corrects last paragraph in Aug 19 report to say Fitch Solutions, not Fitch Ratings) * Philippine shares gain most, up 1.8% * Thai stocks rise on fiscal stimulus hopes * Fitch raises 2019 growth forecast for Malaysia By Niyati Shetty Aug 19 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets closed higher on Monday as investors cheered interest rate reforms by China's central bank, with Philippine shares adding nearly 2%. The People's Bank of China said on Saturday it would improve the mechanism used to establish the loan prime rate from this month, in a move to further lower real interest rates for companies as part of broader market reforms. Analysts say the move underscores the government's attempts to use reforms to support an economy that has been hit hard by a bruising trade war with the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve is back in focus this week as investors await the minutes of its July meeting and Chair Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole symposium, to get further clarity on the central bank's policy stance. Leading the gains in Southeast Asia on Monday, Philippine shares jumped to a more than two-week closing high. Packaged food maker Universal Robina Corp gained 6.5%, while conglomerate JG Summit Holdings rose 6.1%. "Investors are calm compared to last week when there was a deluge of negative events," said Rachelle C Cruz, an analyst with AP Securities. Singapore stocks rose 0.4%, with agribusiness firm Wilmar International adding 2.7%, while real estate firm Hongkong Land Holdings advanced 1.6%. Thai shares eked out gains even as the government cut it 2019 growth forecast after data showed the economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly five years in the second quarter. Investors were optimistic that a planned $10 billion stimulus package announced on Friday would provide some support to the slackening economy. "All eyes are now on the government's announcement of the fiscal stimulus package," ING said in a note, adding that "it needs to be seen how quickly this stimulus gets off the ground to kick-start the economy over the remainder of the year". Energy and industrial stocks were the top gainers, with oil & gas firm PTT PCL and Airports of Thailand adding 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively. Vietnam and Indonesian shares closed marginally higher, while Malaysian stocks retreated slightly. Fitch Solutions on Monday raised its 2019 growth forecast for Malaysia after the country reported stronger-than-expected growth for the first half, but flagged intense pressure from exports over the coming quarters. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3128.45 3115.03 0.43 Bangkok 1637.26 1631.4 0.36 Manila 7938.35 7795.98 1.83 Jakarta 6296.715 6286.657 0.16 Kuala Lumpur 1596.45 1599.22 -0.17 Ho Chi Minh 981.03 980 0.11 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3128.45 3068.76 1.95 Bangkok 1637.26 1563.88 4.69 Manila 7938.35 7,466.02 6.33 Jakarta 6296.715 6,194.50 1.65 Kuala Lumpur 1596.45 1690.58 -5.57 Ho Chi Minh 981.03 892.54 9.91 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)