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Philippines suspends stock market trade over virus fears

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The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange on Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

[MANILA] The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange on Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Stock Exchange president Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended starting Tuesday "until further notice" to move in step with Mr Duterte's order.

Mr Monzon said the suspension was also "to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease".

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have jumped to 142, with 12 deaths and the government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso (S$748 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 per cent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus' economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks' fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

Shares in Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index dropped by as much as 3.66 per cent at Tuesday's open before recovering about 70 minutes after the opening bell.

Overnight, Wall Street indices fell in their worst day since 1987, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropping about 12 per cent and the Dow sinking nearly 13 per cent.

(Bloomberg News contributed to this story)

AFP