By Arundhati Dutta
Most Southeast Asian stock markets ended higher on Wednesday, led by Malaysia, on hopes of government stimulus measures to boost coronavirus-hit economies, while a drop in shares of the Singapore bourse operator dragged down its benchmark index.
However, most markets traded in a tight range amid high caution, as Sino-U.S. tensions flared over a new Hong Kong law which would reduce its separate legal status.
Leading the gains in the region, Malaysian stocks rose more than 1%, after a four-day long extended weekend, playing "catch up" with the rest of Asia, according to Kong She Siang, head of retail research Malaysia at CGS-CIMB Securities.
Major healthcare stocks Hartalega Holdings and Top Glove Corp were the top gainers on the index.
Philippine stocks recovered from a 1.3% drop earlier in the session to end 0.5% higher, amid local media reports https://www.philstar.com/business/2020/05/27/2016711/house-panel-oks-stimulus-package that a House Panel approved a 1.3 trillion pesos ($25.69 billion)stimulus package.
Investors snubbed the "second wave" of U.S.-China tensions in favour of positivism over local stimulus, according to Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at the UnionBank of the Philippines.
Similar packages, which were lined up for Japan and Singapore, were also aiding sentiment, said Asuncion.
Shares in Thailand and Indonesia see-sawed throughout the session and closed higher.
On the downside, the Singapore index closed 0.4% lower, dragged by shares of bourse operator Singapore Exchange which fell the most since 2008 after flagging a hit to profits as a major license ends in February 2021.
Vietnamese equities snapped a two-day rally and ended 1.3% lower, with financials losing the most.
(Reporting by Arundhati Dutta; Editing by Rashmi Aich)