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Philippine stock market suspends trade as coronavirus spreads

Updated: 2020-03-17 10:41
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Passengers wear protective masks while waiting at the Araneta Center Bus Terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines, March 13, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

SINGAPORE - The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trade indefinitely on Tuesday, citing the safety of traders and staff in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move, which was announced by the exchange overnight and takes effect Tuesday, is part of a broader quarantine ordered by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to curb the outbreak.

But the shutdown has caught the eye of analysts who raised the prospect of other exchanges following suit.

"Given the unprecedented speed of the slump in equity prices, it has been suggested that stock exchanges might be closed soon if things don't turn around," research house Capital Economics said in a note on Tuesday.

AdMacro research head Patrick Perret-Green had also raised the prospect in a note issued over the weekend, before the Philippines move.

"We have seen it before. I believe we could see it again," he said. "Governments do not need or want the added stress and distraction at this time."

Capital, however, rate it as an ineffective move to salve investor sentiment and expect - as in the Philippines - health reasons to be invoked should other bourses shut.

"On the rare occasions when stock markets have been shut in the US in the past, it has usually only been for practical reasons, such as after 9/11, rather than as means of trying to restore confidence...(It) might not work in any case.

"Investors might end up selling anything else they could if they needed to raise cash in a hurry."

Global markets are in meltdown as the pandemic spreads, with roughly $14 trillion in shareholder value erased and even safe assets such as gold have been sold to cover losses.

The Philippines benchmark index fell 8% on Monday and is down 20% for March so far, already its worst since October 2008.

"There will be no trading at The Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. and no clearing and settlement...until further notice to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease," the exchange said in a statement dated March 16.



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