By Pranav A K
Southeast Asian stock markets gained on Tuesday, with Thailand hitting its highest level in more than two months, as investors cheered positive data from an early-stage study testing a coronavirus vaccine.
Asian equities tracked Wall Street's rally on Monday after drugmaker Moderna Inc's experimental COVID-19 vaccine appeared safe and showed promise in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data.
"The peak-virus trade continues to gather momentum after last night's Moderna headlines," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
"Moderna's trial is terrific news, but the sample size was not statistically significant... Thus, in the best-case scenario, it will probably be another year before normal life will make a comeback, at best."
Leading gains in the region, Thai shares rose 1.8% to close at their highest level since March 6, lifted by industrial and energy stocks.
Thai Airways International surged 14.6% and boosted the index after the cabinet approved a court-led restructuring of the troubled national carrier.
Indonesian shares, which rose as much as 2.2% in the session, closed 0.8% higher after the central bank kept its policy rate steady against expectations for a cut.
Interest rate sensitive bank stocks rose on the news, with Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional Syariah PT jumping 8.1% and PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) surging 9.2%.
However, Bank Indonesia (BI) pledged to maintain ample cash in the financial system and said there was room to cut rates in the future to cushion Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
"With BI retaining its accommodative stance we continue to expect more rate cuts in the coming months given expectations for a contraction in GDP as early as the 2Q," ING Economist Nicholas Mapa wrote in a note.
Singapore shares extended gains into a third session, buoyed by financial and consumer service stocks.
Malaysian stocks rose 1%, closing at its highest level since April 20, after the world's biggest edible oil importer India resumed purchases of Malaysian palm oil after a four-month gap following a diplomatic row.
Petronas Chemicals Group climbed 5%, while palm oil and rubber plantation company Kuala Lumpur Kepong rose 3.5%.
(Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)