Emerging markets: Indonesian shares slide nearly 2% as virus death toll mounts


SINGAPORE Jan 22 (Reuters): Indonesian shares were the worst hit among Asia's emerging stock markets on Friday after a record rise in domestic Covid-19 deaths, while the region's currencies took a breather from recent gains as the dollar steadied.

Stocks in Jakarta fell nearly 2%, while equities elsewhere in Asia also dipped, taking cues from a pause in a stimulus-driven global market rally.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside of Japan was down 0.8% after hitting a record high the previous day.

Indonesia reported a record daily increase in coronavirus deaths on Thursday for the second time this week, while its confirmed cases are among the highest in Asia, which has put hospitals in the South-East Asian nation under serious strain.

The rupiah weakened 0.3% against the greenback.

"Although President Joko Widodo recently received the very first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the country, it remains to be seen whether the government could fulfil its own timetable for disbursement to the general public," Anthony Kevin, an economist at Mirae Asset Sekuritas wrote in a note.

Regional currencies dipped as the dollar index regained some footing after three days of declines. The Malaysian ringgit, South Korean won and Singapore dollar eased between 0.3% to 0.5%.

Taiwan's dollar once again stood out with gains of more than 1% against the dollar.

"We are constructive on the outlook for Asia FX in 2021 but conservative on the magnitude, with average forecast appreciation of 2-3% for the major currencies vs. USD, partly symptomatic of our view volatility will be lower relative to 2020," BofA analysts wrote in a note.

Meanwhile, selling pressure continued in the Philippines, with the benchmark index down 1.3% and on course for its worst week since late November last year. Blue chip consumer and real estate stocks were the biggest drags on the index.

Foreigners have sold $70.83 million worth of Philippine equities so far this week as of Thursday's close, its biggest weekly outflow in more than a month, according to Refinitiv data.

Singapore's FTSE Straits Times Index fell 0.8% after three straight sessions of gains, while Thai shares were down 0.6% as the country's finance minister warned that the economy could grow less this year, than earlier forecast.

In the week ahead, focus will turn towards fourth-quarter gross domestic product data from South Korea and the Philippines, where investors will look for signs of an economic recovery in 2021. - Reuters
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