Most Southeast Asian stock markets saw lacklustre trade on Friday, finishing off a year in which equity sell-offs driven mainly by trade tensions led to significant annual losses.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand staged a modest rally of 15.51 points to end the day — and the year — at 1,563.88 points, a decline of 10.8% from 1,753.71 at the end of 2017. It was the worst performance by the local bourse since 2015, when it lost 14%. It gained 19.8% in 2016 and 13.7% in 2017.
In a grim year for equities all round, only two exchanges in all of Asia Pacific — Mumbai and Wellington — finished in the black. Shanghai, with a loss of 24.9% for the year to Dec 27, was the world’s second-worst performer behind Athens (-25.5%).
Foreign investors were net sellers on the SET for the fourth year out of the past five (2016 was the exception with net buying of 77.9 billion baht). But their net sales in 2018, at 287.45 billion baht, were more than 10 times the 2017 total of 25.75 billion.
Local institutions were net buyers of 184.26 billion baht, and retail investors had a net-buy position of 118.26 billion. Brokers were net sellers of 15.27 billion in proprietary trading.
All markets in the region except for Singapore and Malaysia had their last trading session of the year on Friday. For the year, Singapore and Philippine stocks also lost more than 10% each as trade tensions between the US and China sapped risk appetite and caused heavy capital outflows.
Indonesian stocks declined the least, falling about 2.5%. The Indonesian market was insulated to some degree against global trade tensions thanks to its high dependence on domestic consumption, said Taye Shim, head of research at Mirae Asset Sekuritas Indonesia.
Philippine stocks recorded the sharpest annual drop among their peers, losing 12.8% — the worst performance in a decade — due to higher oil prices and sustained capital outflows.
Vietnamese shares fell in the closing moments of trade on Friday. A local broker attributed the move to last-minute portfolio restructuring by investment firms. Real estate stocks such as Vingroup and Vincom Retail were heavily sold, while consumer staples like Sabeco and Hoang Anh Gia Lai Agricultural rose slightly.