Virus panic pushes SET off a ledge

Virus panic pushes SET off a ledge

Largest loss among Asia-Pacific markets

Live share prices on display at a securities firm. The SET continued to be Asia's worst-hit index, down 72.69 points on Wednesday.
Live share prices on display at a securities firm. The SET continued to be Asia's worst-hit index, down 72.69 points on Wednesday.

Thailand's benchmark equity index tumbled to its biggest one-day loss since 2014, plunging below 1,400 points as rising local coronavirus infections shattered already fragile investment sentiment.

The Thai bourse was the biggest loser in Asia-Pacific for the second time in three days.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index plummeted 72.69 points or -5.1% to close at 1,366.41 in trade worth 93.2 billion baht.

A sea of red was seen among large-cap shares, with many banking names enduring heavy losses: KBANK, SCB and BBL fell by 9.8%, 7.7% and 7.3%, respectively.

Wednesday's worst-performing stock was newly listed CRC, which saw its share price slide by 12.8% to 32.50 baht, a far cry from its IPO price of 42 baht.

The SET is on a roller-coaster ride this week after experiencing a heavy sell-off on Monday, tumbling below 1,500 points. There was a minor recovery of 0.3% on Tuesday before the bloodletting began anew.

The bourse's year-to-date return stood at -8.9% at Wednesday close, with a price-to-earnings ratio of 16.2 times.

Foreign investors have offloaded holdings of local equities worth a net 3.8 billion baht so far this week. Net equity sales by foreign investors are at 36.5 billion baht year-to-date.

Thailand has confirmed three more infections of the new coronavirus strain, taking the country's total to 40. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the new coronavirus has been classified as a dangerous, communicable disease.

Under the latest rules, anyone suspected of having symptoms after visiting a high-risk country must report to the authorities within three hours.

On Wednesday there were reports that an elderly man put 30 staff at B.Care Medical Center in Bangkok's Sai Mai district at risk of contracting the coronavirus after denying having travelled overseas.

"There are growing concerns of a recession if this outbreak cannot be controlled," said Therdsak Thaveeteeratham, senior executive vice-president of Asia Plus Securities (ASP). "Both panic-selling and force-selling happened in the Thai stock market because share prices plunged sharply at a fast pace."

Another revision of Thailand's GDP growth by different organisations could be on the cards because the epidemic has been affecting many sectors, Mr Therdsak said.

Historically, when Thailand's GDP growth declines for two straight quarters, recession fears run rampant -- as seen in the 1997 financial crisis, the 2008 subprime crisis and the 2013 domestic political unrest, according to ASP.

Despite the ailing bourse, there are still several resilient sectors, including appliances, printing, electronics and finance, said Pakorn Peetathawatchai, the SET president.


Tanarat Pasawongse, chief executive of Hua Seng Heng Group, said that while the global gold price has risen by 10%, the domestic gold price has increased by 17% because of the baht weakening against the greenback.

The spot gold price hit a seven-year high on Monday before retreating slightly on Tuesday, then rebounded on Wednesday amid fears of an escalating outbreak.

"The gold price still has a chance to rise as long as stock prices continue sliding," Mr Tanarat said.

Ariya Tiranaprakit, senior executive vice-president of the Thai Bond Market Association, said the government bond yield continues to decline on two factors: higher demand from risk-off local institutional investors and the outlook for global bond yields.

The 10-year government bond yield fell to a historical low of 1% on Wednesday.

Foreign investors remained as net buyers of Thai bonds worth 2.8 billion baht on a year-to-date basis, despite month-to-date net sales of 8.5 billion baht.

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