Stocks sink; Jollibee leads losers

The stock market plunged Friday, as fears over the new coronavirus rattled investors in Asia Friday as they struggled to work out if the China epidemic was worse than being reported by authorities.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index sank 121.12 points, or 1.6 percent, to 7,282 on a value turnover of P6.4 billion. Gainers, however, beat losers, 100 to 82, with 44 issues unchanged.

Jollibee Foods Corp., the biggest fast-food chain, slumped 5 percent to P185.20, while Megaworld Corp., the largest lessor of office spaces, fell 4 percent to P3.90.

Major property developer Ayala Land Inc. declined 4.2 percent to P41.10, while International Container Terminal Services Inc., the biggest port operator, dropped 3.6 percent to P119.

Meanwhile, a dramatic rise in the number of deaths and new cases of the virus on Thursday fueled global suspicions that Beijing was concealing the true scale of the illness.

Concern turned to confusion on Friday, however, as the death toll was lowered to 1,380 after authorities said they had double-counted some fatalities.

The uncertainty came as Vietnam quarantined  more than 10,000 people in a cluster of villages after six virus cases were detected and Japan reported its first death.  

“There are still some lingering concerns  hanging like a cloud over the market that we could still get a surprise secondary transmission cluster,” said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.

“But the intensity  and market de-risking is nowhere  near the feverish  pitches of last Friday.”

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.59 percent amid concerns over the economic impact from the virus.

Nissan dived 9.64 percent after the crisis-hit carmaker revised down  its full-year sales and profit forecasts, warning that the impact from the epidemic was not yet included in their figures.

After dipping at the open, Shanghai ended the day up 0.38 percent.  

Hong Kong fell 0.11 percent at the open before recovering as investors weighed up the possibility that Thursday’s sharp increase—triggered by a change in the way Chinese officials count new infections—was a one-off.  

Elsewhere, Sydney put on 0.38 percent, Seoul added 0.48 percent and Taipei gained 0.20 percent.

The surge in virus numbers sent Wall Street into the red on Thursday—a reversal from the previous day when the three main indexes closed at record highs.  

The World Health Organization, which has praised China for its transparent handling of the outbreak, moved to calm fears over Thursday’s jump in deaths and cases.

It said the new numbers did “not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak.”

There is still, however, skepticism among the global public, with suggestions that Beijing may be concealing the extent of the virus the way it did during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

Senior White House official Larry Kudlow said Thursday that the US was “a little disappointed in the lack of transparency” from China, which he said had refused American help.

Under criticism at home over the handling of the crisis, China’s top leadership on Wednesday called for efforts to minimize the impact of the outbreak and pledged measures to help firms deal with the economic fallout. With AFP

Topics: Stock Market , Philippine Stock Exchange Index , Philippine Stock Exchange , PSE , PSEi , Jollibee
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