Asian markets unnerved by virus spike, PSEi down 1.59 pct


Posted at Jul 19 2021 02:06 PM

Stock markets in the Philippines, South Korea and Singapore fell more than 1 percent on Monday while all Asian currencies tumbled as some countries tightened COVID-19 curbs to tackle a surge of infections that sparked a sell-off in risky assets.

The PSE index dropped 1.59 percent, slumping for a third day after last week's detection of a Delta variant infection spurred extension of stay-at-home orders, while Singapore's index experienced its worst day since July 7. 

Among currencies, the South Korean won declined 0.6 percent to lead losses on widened curbs beyond Seoul, the capital, while the baht, peso and ringgit fell between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent.

As coronavirus infections have risen even in nations with high vaccination rates, such as Britain and the United States, Asia is still grappling with a slow inoculation pace and tough curbs, clouding its prospects for near-term growth.

"Asia macro continues to face multiple drags," Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note.

They cited the stop-start nature of curbs forced by recurring waves and newer COVID-19 variants and lack of policy space, both monetary and fiscal, to support growth.

Unlike the central banks of developed economies that are considering paring back stimulus, those of emerging Asia are forced to stay accommodative as their economic situation remains unstable.

One exception was Bank of Korea, which is expected to raise interest rates this year after hawkish signals at last week's meeting.

Indonesia's rupiah and stocks fell 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, as its death toll from the virus stood second only to that of Brazil. 

Jakarta is likely to extend existing social curbs until early August, Mizuho analysts said, adding that constraints on hospitals and vaccination were reminiscent of India's struggles in April and May.

Bank Indonesia's policy review set for Thursday is expected to hold rates. 

Other major markets, such as Australia and Japan, were also on the backfoot, sliding 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Recent hints about a slowdown in China's economic growth momentum are also a cause for concern for Asia, as it is the region's top trade partner.


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