SE Asia Stocks-Drop as coronavirus fears grip markets

By Shruti Sonal

* Singapore shares hit lowest since October 2018 * Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines shed over 1% each * Financials across the region hit as rate cuts loom By Shruti Sonal March 6 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets fell sharply on Friday as the fast-spreading coronavirus stoked fears of a deepening economic fallout beyond China, with Singapore shares hitting their lowest in more than a year amid recession concerns. Broader Asian markets tracked Wall Street lower as deaths from the virus rose in the United States and elsewhere, taking the toll worldwide to more than 3,200. "What was initially seen as a China-centric shock is now certainly a global concern," said Westpac senior economist Elliot Clarke. Adding to worries, S&P Global Ratings said growth in the Asia-Pacific will slow to 4% this year, the lowest since the global financial crisis, due to the outbreak. The hardest-hit economies remain Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand, where people flows and supply chain channels are large, S&P added. Financials across the region were among the hardest hit, as further rate cuts seemed likely to shield economies from the impact of the outbreak. "We are just at the start of the rate-cut cycle and entering an uncharted territory. Banks, which are heavyweights in most countries, are likely to face the brunt of the cuts and drag down indexes," said Joel Ng, a Singapore-based analyst at KGI Securities. Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam all shed more than 1% each. Leading losses, Indonesian stocks declined as much as 2.3%, with Bank Central Asia Tbk PT sliding more than 3%. Trade-sensitive Singapore shares fell over 1.7% to their lowest since October 2018. Fears of a recession are mounting in the city state, a day after data showed retail sales in January fell the most in almost a year, leading ING analysts to cut their forecast for annual economic growth to 0.3% from 1%. "Having grown by only 0.7% in 2019, negative GDP growth doesn't look too far-fetched," they said. "Consistent with initial indications from the PMI data, we think a couple of quarters of GDP contraction, both on a yearly and quarterly basis, now look inevitable. Accordingly, we see -0.3% and -0.5% YoY fall in the first and second quarters, respectively." Lenders DBS Group Holdings and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp shed more than 2% each. Thai stocks slipped nearly 2%, with index heavyweight Siam Commercial Bank hitting its lowest since July 2010. For Asian Companies click: SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0350 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 2966.68 3018.27 -1.71 Bangkok 1367.74 1390.83 -1.66 Manila 6799.51 6884.77 -1.24 Jakarta 5519.8 5638.13 -2.10 Kuala Lumpur 1481.65 1491.03 -0.63 Ho Chi Minh 884.49 893.31 -0.99 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 2966.68 3222.83 -7.95 Bangkok 1367.74 1579.84 -13.43 Manila 6799.51 7,815.26 -13.00 Jakarta 5519.8 6,299.54 -12.38 Kuala Lumpur 1481.65 1588.76 -6.74 Ho Chi Minh 884.49 960.99 -7.96 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)