Asian stocks fall as US stimulus hopes dim, anti-govt protests hit Thailand

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(Oct 15): Asia's emerging stock markets slipped on Thursday as hopes of a US stimulus deal before the Nov 3 election faded, while Thai shares dropped after the declaration of an emergency decree in the wake of anti-government protests.

Shares in Bangkok hit a more than one-week low after the government banned protests and the police arrested at least three protest leaders in the face of escalating demonstrations targeting King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.

The baht, which has lagged regional currencies for months, held steady as investors kept a wary eye on political developments. 

"Foreign investors have sold US$9 billion Thai stocks already this year, that's 2% of the market cap. So, already a considerable amount of foreign funds have left," said Kenji Hashizume, senior fund manager at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management in Hong Kong. 

"Many foreign investors are used to a bit of political and social unrest in the country as well."

In Malaysia, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's claim to the premiership has triggered a fresh bout of political wrangling, but the ringgit and stocks were largely unmoved on Thursday as investors adopted a wait-and-see approach.

South Korean shares closed lower for a third consecutive day, as a jump in domestic cases of Covid-19 dented sentiment, but the won strengthened as local exporters sold US dollars.

Shares in Indonesia and Singapore were down more than 1% each, while Philippine stocks gained slightly.

But the Philippine peso dipped slightly, hurt by data pointing to a 4.1% decrease in August for overseas remittances, a key source of foreign income for the country.

"The loss of remittance support to household consumption will likely be felt well into 2021, weighing on prospects for a quick economic recovery," said Nicholas Mapa, ING's senior economist for the Philippines. 

"The PHP may finally come under some pressure by H1 of 2021, with import demand expected to bounce at a time wherein structural flows from remittances and business processing services remain fragile."

Highlights:

  • Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are down 0.5 basis point at 1.365%.
  • Top losers on Thailand's SETI include Varopakorn PCL, down 28.25% at 2.54 baht; G J Steel PCL, down 11.11% at 0.08 baht; Baan Rock Garden PCL fell 6.45% to 1.45 baht.
  • Top losers on the Jakarta stock index include Bank Rakyat Indonesia Agroniaga Tbk PT, down 6.91% at 458 rupiah; Maming Enam Sembilan Mineral Tbk PT, down 6.91% at 404 rupiah.