(Updated)

Asian FX, stocks slump as virus worries linger

Asian FX, stocks slump as virus worries linger
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BENGALURU (July 23): Philippine stocks led losses among Asian equities on Friday as the severe virus outbreaks in the region amid a slow pace of vaccinations kept investors on the side lines, with the negative sentiment spilling over to the currency markets.

Manila's stock index slid up to 1.8%, followed by Jakarta, Bangkok and Singapore shares as they fell between 0.2% and 0.7%. Their currencies traded flat to lower.

The focus now shifts to next week's US Federal Reserve meeting for clues on where it stands on tapering stimulus and how Asian currencies would fare if the central bank of the world's biggest economy hinted at potential rate hikes.

In Asia, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are currently the worst hit as Covid-19 cases continue to spike despite harsh lockdowns, but investors have been exiting Philippine markets in droves in the wake of its drastic economic contraction in 2020.

Philippine shares are down 2.6% this week, the worst among its batch, and the equity outflows have dragged on the peso, causing a 0.6% drop on the day. 

"Covid-19 cases continue to be a key risk for Asia Pacific, with multiple countries battling recent surges such as Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea and Malaysia," said Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG.

"Fresh lockdowns and restrictions may generally linger, impacting domestic demand and inter-border travel."

The Philippines extended a travel ban to include Malaysia and Thailand, and tightened curbs in the Manila area, while the tourism-dependant Bangkok continued to suffer from border closures amid record high daily coronavirus cases.

Thai stocks were 2.6% weaker on a month-to-date basis. Even data on Friday showing June export growth hit an 11-year high couldn't revive interest in local markets.

The baht will not get any respite from the strong readings, ING economists wrote in a note, as "the relentless Covid-19 spread is going to keep tourists at bay for the foreseeable future".

However, analysts were upbeat on Singapore as it is far ahead in terms of vaccinations and they expected its shares to outperform peers in the fourth quarter.

Highlights

  • Singapore's 10-year benchmark yield is down 1.6 basis points at 1.366%
  • Top losers on the Jakarta stock index: Maskapai Reasuransi Indonesia Tbk PT down 7% and Dafam Property Indonesia Tbk PT down 6.9% 
  • In the Philippines, top index losers are Bloomberry Resorts Corp down 4.5% and Megaworld Corp down 4%