SE Asia Stocks-Slump as Fed relief measures fail to calm virus panic

By Arpit Nayak

* Malaysia flags $800 million impact to tourism from virus * Philippine central bank hints at bigger rate cut * China's Jan-Feb industrial output contracts at sharpest pace in 30 years By Arpit Nayak March 16 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Monday, with Malaysia hitting a near ten-year low, as drastic policy measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve did little to soothe investor nerves over the lightning spread of the coronavirus. The Fed on Sunday cut interest rates to near-zero levels and pledged to expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in the coming weeks, joining a global effort to combat the pandemic which has forced stringent lockdowns and travel bans worldwide. "Ironically, markets might have perceived the Fed's response as panic, feeding into its own fears," Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note. "Despite whipping out the big guns (and jumping the gun) the Fed appears to lack the silver bullets; falling short of being the decisive backstop for markets." Malaysia's benchmark index shed 3.4% to hit a near 10-year low, led by losses in the financial sector. Malayan Banking Bhd hit a near three-and-a-half-year low. The country's prime minister said on Friday the tourism sector had likely suffered nearly $800 million in losses in the first two months of 2020 due to the virus. Adding to woes, Southeast Asia's biggest trade partner, China, saw industrial output contract at its sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of the year as the virus battered its economy. Philippine shares recouped some losses after losing as much as 7.6% in early trade, but stayed firmly in the red. After the Fed slashed rates, the Philippine central bank also hinted at a rate cut of more than 25 basis points at its Thursday meeting. Singapore shares dropped 3.4%, and were set for a fourth straight session of losses, while Indonesian stocks dropped 4%, ahead of February trade data expected later in the day. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS as at GMT 3:24 AM Change on the day Market Current Previous Pct Move close Singapore 2567.57 2634 -2.52 Bangkok 1094.52 1128.91 -3.05 Manila 5473.27 5793.94 -5.53 Jakarta 4773.426 4907.571 -2.73 Kuala Lumpur 1309.91 1344.75 -2.59 Ho Chi Minh 748.62 761.78 -1.73 Change so far in 2020 Market Current End 2019 Pct Move Singapore 2567.57 3222.83 -20.33 Bangkok 1094.52 1579.84 -30.72 Manila 5473.27 7,815.26 -29.97 Jakarta 4773.426 6,299.54 -24.23 Kuala Lumpur 1309.91 1588.76 -17.55 Ho Chi Minh 748.62 960.99 -22.10 (Reporting by Arpit Nayak; Editing by Devika Syamnath)