Philippine shares fall most in 4 years as virus rattles Asian markets


Posted at Feb 26 2020 11:38 AM

Pedestrians wearing facial masks are reflected on an electric board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters/file

MANILA -- Philippine shares tracked the decline in Asia on Wednesday, tumbling the most in 4 years due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, analysts said.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell 4.3 percent in early trading, its steepest fall since January 2016 based on Bloomberg data. Financial markets reopened from a public holiday on Tuesday.

The peso weakened past the P51 mark to the dollar. It opened at P51.085 from Monday's close of P50.96.

The country's largest fastfood operator, Jollibee, which is present in mainland China, was down 6.14 percent before noon. Jollibee earlier said it temporarily closed 14 Yonghe King noodle stores in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.

Port operator ICTSI was down 7.74 percent. Cebu Pacific parent JG Summit was down 4.69 percent, while shares of the airline were down 1.7 percent. San Miguel, Robinsons Land and Aboitiz Power all tumbled by at least 6 percent, according to Bloomberg.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down 1.28 percent. Japan was among the worst-performing market in the region, weighed by growing concerns the virus could cancel the Tokyo Olympics.

Wall Street fell overnight after US authorities warned of a potential pandemic. While new cases in China are declining, infections are rising in South Korea and Italy. Beijing has reported 2,715 deaths and 78,064 infections in the mainland.

"What we are seeing is share markets are playing catch up," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"Other asset markets have been flashing warning signs for weeks. A corrective bounce in equities is possible, but we still have a lot of downward momentum."

In Manila, BPI Securities president Haj Naravez said investors would monitor the impact of the virus on outsourced gaming firms that employ Chinese workers.

So-called POGOs or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations help drive demand for residential and office space in the country's urban centers.

"Maybe the effect in the near term will not be so severe, but it's something to keep an eye on," he said.