Most markets end lower as China virus anxiety lingers

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(Jan 24): Most Southeast Asian stock markets ended lower on Friday, as concerns over an escalating coronavirus outbreak in China — the region's biggest trading partner — bruised risk sentiment and as the week-long Lunar New Year holiday kicked off.

China on Friday stepped up measures to contain the virus that had killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspensions in 10 cities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an health emergency for China but stopped short of declaring an international health emergency, even as millions geared up for travel during the Chinese New Year week that could accelerate the contagion's spread.

"Market sentiment continues to be overshadowed by reports of more cases of the Wuhan virus," ING Bank said in a note to clients.

Trade activity was slow across Southeast Asian markets as the week-long holiday began, with China and Vietnam being closed and only partial trading in Singapore and Malaysia.

Losses in utilities and energy sectors weighed on the Thai index, with the bourse losing 2% for the week.

Global Power Synergy ended 3.6% lower, while gas explorer PTT PCL fell 1.1%.

Singapore shares ended firmer after data showed that the city-state's industrial output, as expected, fell slightly in December but not as steep as the previous month. 

Telecom and real estate sectors helped lift the Singapore index on Friday, though the benchmark marked its biggest weekly drop since October last year.    

Malaysian stocks dropped for the fifth straight session to lose 1.4% over the week, with telecom company Maxis Bhd dropping 1.6%, while hospitality compaby Genting Malaysia Bhd ended 2.5% lower.