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Singapore shares lead gains, SET jumps more than 1%

SET index adds 12.70 to 1,592.72

US officials leave a hotel for a meeting with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing on Monday. Their trade talks boosted stocks in Southeast Asia. (Bloomberg photo)

Southeast Asian stock markets rose on Monday, with Singapore marking a three-week closing high, as the start of Sino-US trade talks raised hopes that a deal would alleviate concerns about slowing global economic growth.

US officials are meeting their Chinese counterparts in Beijing for trade negotiations starting later on Monday. This comes a day after US President Donald Trump said that trade talks with China were going very well and that weakness in the Chinese economy gave Beijing a reason to work toward a deal.

"Any development when it comes to the trade talks will be a positive factor for overall markets, especially for markets which have been directly affected by the trade war," said Miguel Ong, a research analyst with AP Securities.

However, news of a US navy ship sailing in the disputed South China Sea earlier in the day marred signs of easing relations between the world's top two economies.

Meanwhile, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday took a more accommodative stance and said the Fed was aware of the risks to the US economy and would be patient and flexible in policy decisions, boosting market sentiment across the globe.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand index advanced 17.59 points or 1.12% to 1,592.72, in trade worth almost 45 billion baht. The Thai index was buoyed by energy companies PTT Plc and PTT Exploration and Production Plc, rising 2.67% and 2.11% respectively.

Optimism in the market stayed afloat even as Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the economy faced uncertainty ahead of elections scheduled for next month, adding that the economy grew at least 4.0-4.2% last year.

After a weaker-than-expected third quarter, the Bank of Thailand in December cut its 2018 growth forecast to 4.2% from 4.4%, and raised its key policy rate for the first time in more than seven years. 

The best performance was Singapore shares. The Singapore stock market climbed 1.4%, rising for a second straight session and leading the gains in the region.

Financials were the top gainers with DBS Group Holdings Ltd and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd rising 2% and 1.8%, respectively.

Philippine stocks pared earlier gains to close 0.3% higher with the consumer sector seeing significant gains. This came after data released on Friday showed the smallest rise in the consumer price index in seven months in December.

Universal Robina Corp rose 1.6%, while fast-food franchise Jollibee Foods Corp climbed 4.5%, making it the best performer on the index.

Indonesian stocks hit a more than eight-month closing high, while Vietnam shares ended 1% higher.

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