By Anushka Trivedi
Sept 21 (Reuters) – South Korean stocks declined 1% on Monday in a broad-based sell-off, while other Asian markets traded within a range as rising COVID-19 cases locally and in Europe dampened investor sentiment.
South Korea’s tech-heavy main index .KS11 hit a more than one-week low despite solid export data, while Singapore .STI, Philippine .PSI and Malaysian .KLSE markets were largely flat. KRW/
Investor sentiment was hit as European nations from Spain to Denmark imposed new restrictions to contain surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities while Britain was reported to be contemplating reinstating lockdown.
Risks of increased military tensions between the United States and China as some Washington officials visited Taiwan last week also added to concerns.
“Uncertainties arising from potential worsening of COVID-19 infections, the U.S. election outcome (in November) and the possible escalation of geopolitical tensions in the run-up to the elections cloud the picture for equities,” Manishi Raychaudhuri, managing director, head of equity research – Asia-Pacific at BNP Paribas, wrote in a note.
Asian currencies were firmer against the U.S. dollar, with Taiwan’s dollar advancing 0.7% to a seven-year high.
Indonesia’s rupiah IDR= built on Friday’s gains, rising 0.3% to its highest since Sept. 2.
The currency has been under pressure this month on concerns over rising coronavirus cases and the central bank’s independence, but a decision last week to keep rates steady seems to have settled some of the jitters.
S&P Global signalled on Friday that Indonesia should handle any changes to the central bank law carefully to prevent any pressure on its markets and sovereign rating.
Meanwhile, the Thai baht THB=TH firmed to a three-week high before paring gains to trade around 0.1% higher, ahead of a central bank meeting later in the week where interest rates are expected to be held at a record low.
The baht and local stocks .SETI also got some relief from the latest round of anti-government protests not descending into violence as they usually have in the past, said Kobsidthi Silpachai, head of capital markets research at Kasikornbank.
However, he said the Bank of Thailand’s meeting on Wednesday and call for a strike by protesters on Oct. 24 “would discourage traders from putting on a lot of positions onto the currency.”
Providing additional support to the Thai markets was the passing of a $106 billion budget bill for 2021 by the parliament on Friday to revive Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy from a collapse in tourism and exports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields ID10YT=RR are down 4 basis points at 6.874%
** Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank SCB.BK down 0.7% after demonstrators call for a boycott
** Top losers on the Jakarta stock index .JKSE include Dwi Guna Laksana Tbk PT DWGL.JK down 7%, Dian Swastatika Sentosa Tbk PT DSSA.JK down 6.97%
Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0644 GMT
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(Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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