SET dives on virus fears

SET dives on virus fears

A trader checks share prices at an Asia Plus trading room on Feb 17, 2020. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A trader checks share prices at an Asia Plus trading room on Feb 17, 2020. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The Stock Exchange of Thailand index tumbled nearly 4% on Monday as the novel coronavirus epidemic darkened the nation’s economic outlook.

The benchmark SET Index was down 3.98% at close to 1435.56 points, 22% below its all-time high in January 2018, as an increase in coronavirus cases outside of China roiled risk assets globally.

The disease known as Covid-19 that spread from China has killed more than 2,500 people and infected over 75,000, sparking widespread travel and other curbs to prevent a pandemic.

“The key advice now is hold cash, and wait and see,” said Thanomsak Saharatchai, the head of research at Krungthai Zmico Securities. “Most valuations are attractive, but the main concern is when this disease outbreak will subside.”

Central Retail Corporation led the most active shares, falling 4.75 baht, or 11.52%, to 36.50 baht, but Gulf Energy Development was up 3.50 baht, or 1.92%, to close at 185.50 baht.

The government predicts economic growth could slow to as little as 1.5% this year, a six-year low, as the disease deters tourists and idles factories. Foreigners have pulled out a net US$1.1 billion from the Thai stock market so far this year.

The government plans more stimulus steps and expectations are growing that the Bank of Thailand will cut interest rates again to a new record low.

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