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South-east Asia: Most fall as trade uncertainty, slowdown worries bite

[BENGALURU] Most South-east Asian stock markets traded in the red on Friday as uncertainty over the Sino-US trade deal was revived ahead of fresh rounds of negotiations, while concerns about global economic slowdown continued to rattle confidence.

Investors are also nervous ahead of a summit in Chile where US President Donald Trump hopes to finalise a partial trade deal with China's Xi Jinping.

Lifting uncertainties was a speech by US Vice-President Mike Pence on Thursday, which criticised China's handling of the Hong Kong protests and its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

Also dampening sentiment, a Reuters poll of economists found that the recent truce in the US-China trade dispute is not an economic turning point and has failed to reduce a significant risk that the world's biggest economy could slip into recession in the next two years.

Dented by financials and consumer stocks, the Indonesian index slipped more than half a percent after rising 5.2 per cent over 10 straight sessions. The benchmark is set to post its biggest weekly gain in nearly five months. The Indonesian central bank cut its benchmark rate for the fourth consecutive time in as many months on Thursday to support growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

"Further policy easing by Bank Indonesia will help support growth, but a definitive and quick turnaround is unlikely to materialise, leaving financial markets devoid of any strong impetus to react in either direction in the near term," ANZ Research said in a note.

Thai stocks opened lower for a second straight session, and were on track to post a 1.3 per cent weekly loss. Energy stocks weighed on the index as oil prices slipped on Friday, with heavyweight PTT PCL falling 0.6 per cent and Thai Oil PCL losing as much as 5.2 per cent.

The Philippine bourse retreated from previous session's gains, while banking stocks advanced after the central bank cut the amount of cash that lenders must hold as reserves by 100 basis points as it looks to boost liquidity and shore up growth. Bank of Philippine Islands and Metropolitan Bank and Trust gained 2.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively.

Bucking the trend, Singapore shares rose and were on track to post their biggest weekly gain in over four months. Singapore Exchange shares marked their best session in over 10 years after the company reported its biggest quarterly net profit in 12 years on Thursday.

Industrial conglomerate Keppel Corp is on track to post its biggest weekly gain in nearly 11 years, after state-owned investor Temasek Holdings offered S$4.1 billion to buy control of Keppel on Monday.


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