(Feb 8): Southeast Asian stock markets fell on Friday with Philippines slipping the most, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he did not plan to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before the 90-day truce deadline, renewing fears of a prolonged trade war.
A person briefed on the talks said that Trump's advisers were concerned that accepting a meeting invitation at this stage would raise unfounded expectations for a quick deal and erode U.S. leverage in the talks, where the two sides remain far apart on core structural intellectual property issues.
With their largest trade partner to possibly face further trade tariffs, stock markets in export-reliant Southeast Asian economies and broader Asia tumbled.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.7%, easing back from a four-month peak touched the previous day.
"Asian markets that have re-opened (after Chinese New Year holidays) are likely to trade with a risk-off tone today, as market players re-grapple with the likelihood of US-China resuming their trade war at the end of the 90-day truce period," OCBC said in a note.
The Philippine index dropped 0.7% and is on track to snap five straight weeks of gains.
Weakness in financial and industrial stocks hurt the index, with BDO Unibank Inc and SM Investment Corp dipping 1.4% and 1.2% respectively.
The country's central bank held interest rates steady for a second straight meeting on Thursday, saying inflation risk had fallen on lower crude oil and food prices.
The Malaysian benchmark dropped 0.5%, dragged by losses in index heavyweight Axiata Group Bhd.
Media reports said the Supreme Court in Nepal had ruled that Axiata Group and its unit Ncell have to foot a tax bill of 61 billion Nepalese rupees (US$533.59 million), excluding late fees and fines for the capital gains tax on Ncell buyout deal.
Shares of the telecom behemoth dropped as much as 5% to their lowest since Dec 18. Meanwhile, those of Tenaga Nasional Bhd slid 1.2%.
The Thai index dipped 0.4%, hurt by energy and financial stocks with PTT PCL dropping 1% and Kasikornbank PCL losing 1.5%.
Thailand's royalty made an unprecedented move into politics on Friday, when the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn was declared as a prime ministerial candidate for March 24 elections, registration papers showed. Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932.
Vietnam's financial markets remained closed this week for Chinese New Year holidays.
SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS As at 0356 GMT
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(US$1 = 114.3200 Nepalese rupees)