SE Asia Stocks-Battered as spread of coronavirus sparks pandemic worries
Monday, February 24, 2020       19:20 WIB

Feb 24 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets were thrashed on Monday as a surge in coronavirus infections outside China fuelled fears of a global pandemic, while Malaysia closed at an over eight-year low amid political turmoil.
Market participants cut exposure to riskier assets across the region, leading to emerging Asian currencies and equities posting steep losses. The stock markets in Malaysia and Thailand closed at multi-year lows.
The market movement was "playing into an earlier worry that even if it (the outbreak) is contained, the economic impact is far reaching given China's economic heft and influence," said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank.
"The sheer explosion of the rate in (South) Korea has been quite frightening ... there's a sobering realisation that this could really impact hard and fast".
South Korea raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level as it reported a jump in new infections, while Italy sealed off some of its worst affected towns in its fight
to contain what has become the biggest coronavirus outbreak in Europe.
Malaysian shares dropped over 2.7% to close at their lowest in over eight years after the sell-off was exacerbated by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's shock resignation amid a power tussle, leaving the government in limbo.
"In any case, we expect Malaysian assets to remain under pressure in the interim until the dust settles," Varathan said in a note to clients.
Indonesian stocks closed at an over 15-month low, while the rupiah, which has held up better against its Asian peers due to its carry trade appeal, fell as much as 0.9%.
Losses among financial stocks weighed on the Thai benchmark as it closed down nearly 4%, the index's lowest close in three years.
Heavyweights Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank fell 3.4% and 4.1% respectively.
Vietnam stocks saw their worst trading session in almost a month as they plummeted over 3%.

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