Philippine stocks jumped over 2% on Friday, their best in nearly two months, as soft inflation data raised scopes for policy easing by the central bank, while most other Southeast Asian stock markets edged lower. The Philippine headline inflation rate of 0.9% last month was the slowest in more than three years. It was below the 1.1% forecast in a Reuters poll and was within the central bank's 0.6% to 1.4% forecast for the month.
Inflation peaked at a near-decade high of 6.7% in September and October last year. Overall prices have since eased, allowing the central bank to start reversing some of last year's 175 basis points of interest rate hikes. "With this environment, the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) has scope to ease policy rates further should other data points warrant it, but for the most part the price objective remains well in hand," ING said in a note.
Shares of SM Prime Holdings Inc rose 4% to a more than two-month closing high, while Ayala Land climbed 2.7%. Indonesian stocks snapped five consecutive sessions of losses, buoyed by materials and financials.
Shares of Sinar Mas Multiartha and Semen Indonesia rose 7% and 6.55, respectively.
Other Southeast Asian equity markets edged lower as investors grew wary ahead of US jobs data and US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's speech. Investors will look for signals on future rate cuts from these two events.
Malaysian stocks closed 0.4% lower, partially recovering from earlier falls on weak August trade data.
Exports fell 0.8% in August, contracting after an unexpected rebound in the previous month, and far worse than the 2.5% increase forecast in a Reuters poll.
Among losers, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd slumped 6.8% following a block trade of 31.6 million secondary shares of the plantation company. Singapore stocks shed 0.3% on the back of financials and telecoms.