Southeast Asia stocks rise after Fed pauses rate rises

Published: January 31, 2019 12:02:38 | Updated: February 02, 2019 12:16:52

File Photo (Collected)

Southeast Asian stocks rose on Thursday, in line with broader Asia, as the US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady while signalling its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy may be at an end.

A dovish Fed helped MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rise 0.7 per cent to its highest since Oct. 4.

The Fed kept rates at 2.25 per cent to 2.5 per cent as widely expected, which are well below historical averages, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear that the US central bank would be "patient" before making any further moves in raising borrowing costs.

Investors now focus their attention on a crucial round of trade talks between high-level US-China officials which began on Wednesday aimed at easing a months-long tariff war.

The positive developments helped offset sentiment emanating from bleak Chinese factory data which showed activity contracted for a second straight month in January, pointing to further strains on China's economy that could heighten risks to global growth.

Indonesian shares jumped as much as 0.9 per cent to hit a near 11-month high. The index has gained 5.2 per cent in January, on track for three straight months of gains.

Unilever Indonesia gained as much as 1.7 per cent, while Bank Central Asia climbed as much as 1.1 per cent.

Philippine shares led gains in Southeast Asia, rising over 1.0 per cent. The benchmark has outperformed regional peers in so far in 2019, gaining 8.4 per cent in January and on track for its biggest monthly gain since March 2016.

BDO Unibank and SM Investment were the top boost, rising as much as 2.5 per cent and 2.0 per cent, respectively.

Thai shares were up as much as 0.9 per cent, hitting an over 7-week high, with investors awaiting the country's trade data for December due later in the day.

Singapore and Malaysia shares were on track to snap three consecutive days of losses, each rising as much as 0.7 per cent.

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