Philippine shares rose on Wednesday on expectations its central bank would remain accommodative at a monetary policy meeting later this week, while Malaysian equities traded cautiously ahead of fourth-quarter GDP data.
Regional stock markets traded in tight ranges ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays which start this week, while emerging Asian currencies were also range-bound.
The Manila stock market index climbed as much as 1.3% to hit its highest level in nearly three weeks.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate steady at a record low on Thursday, brushing aside a projected uptick in inflation to support the country’s pandemic-hit economy, a Reuters poll showed.
BSP would likely look through a recent increase in inflation and maintain an easy monetary policy stance, Standard Chartered analysts wrote in a note. Annual inflation hit its highest level in two years in January.
Further aiding sentiment, the government raised 221.2 billion pesos ($4.6 billion) at an auction of three-year retail treasury bonds on Tuesday, proceeds from which will fund the government’s national budget.
But analysts remained wary about the pace of economic recovery.
“The economy remains quarters away from returning to pre-pandemic levels of GDP,” said ING senior economist Nicholas Mapa.
Malaysian stocks were up 0.1% ahead of release of fourth-quarter GDP data on Thursday.
A Reuters poll showed that the economic slump is expected to have deepened as a result of sustained restrictions on movement and business to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Worryingly, Q4 weakness is not merely backward-looking as spill-over impact from wider MCO (movement control orders) alongside (the) state of emergency declared darken growth prospects for Q1 2021 as well,” Mizuho Bank analysts said.
Trade was subdued before the Lunar New Year, with stock markets in Vietnam and Taiwan already closed for the holidays. China will enter a week-long holiday from Thursday.
Shares in Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea were about 0.1% lower, while those in Thailand and India were up 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.
Currencies in the region, which have seen solid gains recently against a weaker U.S. dollar, were also broadly steady. Malaysian ringgit ticked up 0.2%, while the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah added 0.1% each.
“A divergent thematic of COVID-19 improvement, vaccine roll-out and growth outperformance in favour of U.S. compared to other parts of the world could still be in play,” Maybank analysts said.
“This is supportive of overall sentiment but should also provide temporary and moderate support for USD in the interim.”