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Indonesian markets jump as Jokowi set for re-election

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Stocks in Jakarta rose as much as 2.3 per cent at one point to their highest since February 2018, before paring gains.

[JAKARTA] Indonesian financial markets jumped on Thursday after early election results indicated incumbent leader Joko Widodo is set to be re-elected, giving him another five years to deliver on a reform agenda and revive economic growth.

Stocks in Jakarta rose as much as 2.3 per cent at one point to their highest since February 2018, before paring gains.

The rupiah jumped 0.6 per cent to 14,000 per dollar, a seven-week high. Benchmark 10-year government bond yields edged down to 7.598 per cent.

"The outcome is favourable from a market perspective. (Policy) continuity is what we would expect," said Shamaila Khan, New York-based director of emerging market debt at Alliance Bernstein.

Unofficial quick counts showed Mr Widodo - popularly known as Jokowi - was set to win Wednesday's popular vote and come at least eight percentage points ahead of challenger Prabowo Subianto, who investors feared would be a champion of economic nationalism.

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The counts also suggested Mr Widodo's coalition will increase its hold on the national legislature.

Government insiders said he is poised for a surge of reform, though several analysts noted he was cautious in his first term. On the list of areas he might tackle is sagging foreign investment, the troubled education system and restrictive labour rules.

Indonesia's economic growth has hovered around 5 per cent in the last few years, well below the 7 per cent Jokowi targeted in his first term.

Joanne Goh, a DBS equity strategist in Singapore, raised the bank's benchmark Jakarta Composite Index (JCI) target to 6,900 points after the election, from the previous 6,500. It was around 6,523 in early trade.

During Mr Widodo's tenure, Indonesia "steered through a mini emerging markets currency crisis in 2018 without much negative impact on growth nor the financial system," she said in a note on Thursday morning.

But due to pressure in commodity markets, "the rally in equity will be limited to interest-rate sensitive sectors since Bank Indonesia will have a bigger chance of lowering interest rates," said Budi Hikmat, director at fund manager Bahana TWC Investment Management in Jakarta.

Indonesia's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate six times last year, as policymakers struggled to support the rupiah, reduce imports and lower the country's yawning current-account deficit.

"Real yields are too high and the central bank will have room to cut rates. But equities will really depend on (fiscal) policy, on whether there will be a catalyst for earnings," said Anthony Chan, chief Asia investment strategist at Union Bancaire Privée.

The Jakarta stock index has gained 4.6 per cent so far this year, but has lagged most of its South-east Asian peers. Foreign buyers purchased a net US$979.40 million of shares after offloading US$3.6 billion last year.

International investors are net buyers of Indonesian bonds, holding 38.5 per cent of government bonds as of April 15, according to Finance Ministry data.

The rupiah has gained 2.6 per cent so far this year, after tumbling over 6 per cent in 2018. Analysts at Citi said in a note to clients that the currency could go to 13,950-14,000 per dollar as dividend payments start to kick in next month.


Onshore markets were closed on Wednesday due to the election.

Offshore one year non-deliverable rupiah forwards dipped to their seven-week low on Wednesday, pointing to a firmer currency, after unofficial quick counts gave Jokowi a comfortable lead.

Futures later gave up some of those gains after challenger Prabowo claimed victory, despite polls saying he lagged the incumbent by 7.1 to 11.6 percentage points.

The ruling coalition that backs Jokowi is poised to win over half of the parliamentary seats, pollsters said on Wednesday.

The margin appears robust enough to prevent any legal challenges from Prabowo to become a long running problem, said Matt Gertken, geopolitical strategist at BCA Research in Montreal.

Mohamed Faiz Nagutha, a Singapore-based economist at Bank of America Merill Lynch, warned the dispute about the result could drag on to June.

But "once the political noises fade, markets will likely be driven by macroeconomic fundamentals and progress on structural reforms," he wrote in a note on Thursday.

The official election results will not be published until May.


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