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End firmer as China halves tariffs on some U.S. goods

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02/06/2020 | 05:54am EDT
People look at trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur

Southeast Asian stocks closed firmer on Thursday after China decided to slash tariffs on some U.S. imports, offering relief to markets that were gripped by slowdown worries amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Broader Asian markets clocked in strong gains on news that China - the region's largest trading partner - plans to halve additional tariffs levied against 1,717 U.S. goods last year, even as it reiterated its aim to eventually scrap all tariffs that had been levied during the trade war.

Markets were already beginning to emerge from safe-haven assets and bet on the virus being a short-term shock, even while the human toll continues to grow.

Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died from the virus, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country's health authority said on Thursday.

Trade-sensitive Singapore shares climbed nearly 1% to hit their highest close since Jan. 27, with index heavyweights Jardine Strategic Holdings and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd ending up 1.3% and 1.5%, respectively.

Leading gains in the region, the Philippine index ended 2.1% higher after the central bank governor said it was prepared to loosen policy further to protect growth.

After the closing bell, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas trimmed its key interest rate to shield the economy from the impact of the coronavirus.

Property developer SM Prime Holdings Inc, the top percentage gainer in the Philippine index, closed nearly 6% firmer.

Elsewhere, Malaysian equities climbed more than 1% as a rally in palm oil prices boosted shares of the edible oil producers, which have a heavy weightage on the benchmark. [POI/]

Sime Darby Plantation, the world's largest oil palm planter by land size, ended up nearly 1%.

Indonesian shares, which rose up to 0.6% earlier in the day, pared gains after the country's tourism minister flagged a possible $4 billion hit in tourism-related earnings if travel from China is disrupted for the whole year due to the virus outbreak.

Meanwhile, Thai equities gained marginally to end a tick higher after the central bank signalled more room to help economy if necessary, a day after cutting the benchmark policy rate to a record low.

(Reporting by Shruti Sonal; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

By Shruti Sonal

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
CPO (CPO) - CMG (ELECTRONIC)/C1 0.10% 486.25 End-of-day quote.-30.46%
JARDINE STRATEGIC HOLDINGS LIMITED -0.30% 19.95 End-of-day quote.-34.91%
LETS HOLDINGS GROUP CO., LTD. 4.01% 12.45 End-of-day quote.106.13%
LONDON BRENT OIL 7.24% 37.64 Delayed Quote.-46.38%
SIME DARBY PLANTATION -1.00% 4.96 End-of-day quote.-8.99%
SINGAPORE TELECOMMUNICATIONS LIMITED -1.19% 2.49 End-of-day quote.-25.00%
SM PRIME HOLDINGS, INC. 2.20% 30.15 End-of-day quote.-28.38%
WORLD CO., LTD. -3.03% 1567 End-of-day quote.-41.77%
WTI 5.07% 35.185 Delayed Quote.-45.35%
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