MOST Southeast Asian stocks were subdued on Wednesday as the rising coronavirus death toll in China weighed on investors’ risk appetite, while Thailand’s market bounced from a seven-day losing streak as investors snapped up cheapened stocks.

The virus has claimed 132 lives in China and 1,500 new cases have been identified, prompting several countries to restrict air travel to China as pressure mounts on Beijing to contain its spread.

Hong Kong stocks tumbled nearly 3% as the market opened for trade after the Lunar New Year holiday, despite a show of confidence by the Word Health Organisation in China’s ability to contain the virus.

A number of companies in the country warned the virus would negatively impact their businesses.

Singaporean equities inched higher, having fallen nearly 2% on Tuesday after the country’s trade minister flagged negative impact to its economy from the coronavirus outbreak.

Markets in Indonesia and Malaysia closed flat, while Vietnam’s bourse remained closed on account of a holiday.

Philippines shares closed slightly lower, extending losses for a third straight session.

Meanwhile, Thai stocks edged up 0.8% as investors sought bargains after seven consecutive sessions of losses since the coronavirus outbreak came to light on Jan 20. The index shed 5.4% during the same period.

Markets shrugged off the Thai finance ministry’s move to slash the country’s growth forecast to 2.8% from the 3.3% it predicted in October.

The Thai baht, however, fell below the key 31 level against the dollar after the announcement. The trade-reliant country said it anticipates exports will grow at 1% in 2020, lower than the 2.6% rise it had forecast three months ago.

Siam Cement and PTT Global Chemical were among biggest boosts to the index on Wednesday. – Jan 29, 2020, Reuters

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