KLCI retreats, healthcare index jumps as China virus outbreak spooks markets

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 21): The FBM KLCI closed down 1.55 points or 0.1% at 1,587.33 today after volatile trade while Bursa Malaysia's healthcare index jumped as a global outbreak of a pneumonia-causing virus, which started in China weigh on global markets.

At Bursa, the healthcare index, which tracks shares of rubber glove and pharmaceutical product manufacturers besides hospital operators, jumped 47.39 points or 3.73% to 1,318.95 against such sentiment.

“At this point, from what we can see, the concerns over the escalation of the current viral outbreak in China have weighed on the KLCI. The only real gainers were healthcare and glove makers,” Rakuten Trade Sdn Bhd research vice president Vincent Lau told theedgemarkets.com.

Reuters reported that China reported a fourth death from a new coronavirus on Tuesday as the number of cases continued to rise, sending jitters through Asian markets as hundreds of millions of Chinese prepared to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.

It was reported that health authorities around the world have begun to step up screening of travelers arriving from China. Two cases have already been identified in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea, while the Philippines reported on Tuesday its first suspected case, according to Reuters.

"The virus can cause pneumonia, with symptoms including fever and difficulty in breathing. Health authorities around the world stepped up screening and the World Health Organization called a meeting on Wednesday to consider declaring an international health emergency, as China confirmed the virus spread through human contact.

"Asian shares fell as investors likened the outbreak to the 2002/2003 spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus which broke out in China and killed nearly 800 people in a global pandemic. China's yuan  was down nearly half a percent and on track for its worst day in a month, while airline and travel stocks fell across the region," Reuters reported.

Across Bursa today, 2.66 billion shares worth RM1.93 billion were traded. Top gainers included rubber glove makers Top Glove Corp Bhd and Hartalega Holdings Bhd while leading decliners included Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd.

Within the KLCI, Top Glove, which closed up 29 sen or 6.02% at RM5.11, became the top-percentage gainer among the index's 30 stocks. Hartalega was the second-largest gainer after the stock rose 25 sen or 4.5% to RM5.80.