JAKARTA, Nov 30 (Reuters): Emerging Asian equities and currencies trimmed gains on Tuesday on concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could prove more resistant to existing vaccines, while South Korean shares dropped over 2% on weak domestic data.
Risk sentiment across Asia soured after the head of drugmaker Moderna told the Financial Times that current Covid-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against Omicron as they have been against the Delta variant.
Indonesia stocks reversed course to fall 0.5%, while equities in Thailand, China and Malaysia shaved gains to trade flat to 0.2% higher.
"Having been scared by Delta, much of Asia is still in ultra-cautious mode, as their recovery was only just gathering steam with borders being tentatively reopened," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific, at OANDA.
Most Asian countries have already closed their borders to visitors from eight southern African nations where the variant was first detected, with fears creeping in that internal restrictions may be required again.
Singapore's premier warned over the weekend that newly relaxed Covid-19 restrictions could be reinstated. Equities there fell 1.5%, down for the sixth day in a row.
With a 4% loss this month, the index was also set to be the second-worst regional performer behind South Korea.
Seoul shares slumped as much as 3% on Tuesday to an 11-month low, hit by authorities shelving plans to relax Covid-19 curbs as cases rise and disappointing factory output data.
The Asian trade bellwether said manufacturing production in October shrank at its sharpest pace in nearly 1-1/2 years as global chip shortages dented car production.
Among currencies, Singapore's dollar and the Indonesian rupiah eased 0.1% each, while the Malaysian ringgit held onto gains of 0.4%.
The ringgit, however, has been the worst performing Asian currency in November with losses of almost 2% as crude prices slumped. Malaysia is a net oil exporter.
Meanwhile, optimism over India's expected buoyant gross domestic data due later in the day wore off after Moderna's warning, with equities see-sawing between positive and negative territory. They were last up 0.2%.
Philippine equity markets were closed for a holiday. - Reuters