Most South-east Asian stock markets fell on Wednesday as investors favoured safe-havens assets ahead of French presidential elections though tensions over geopolitical uncertainties eased. U.S. Treasury yields fell to five-month lows on Tuesday as nervousness ahead of France’s first round of presidential elections this weekend. Opinion polls show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying next Sunday for the May 7 run-off.
On the other hand, British Prime Minister Theresa May calling for early general elections ahead of Brexit negotiations added to the general sense of wariness. “I think there is risk-off sentiment in the markets right now following last night’s surprise announcement regarding the snap elections in the UK,” said Victor Felix, an equity analyst with AB Capital Securities. “There is also a lot of uncertainty ahead of the first round of French elections.”
Asian stocks excluding Japan hit their lowest since mid-March. Singapore shares fell 0.5 percent with oil and gas stocks being the biggest losers on lower crude prices. Oil rig builder Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Industries fell over 2 percent each and were among the biggest losers on the benchmark stock index. Consumer and industrial stocks also saw considerable weakness, with Jardine Matheson Holdings, the biggest stock on the index by market value, shedding 0.9 percent.
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Philippine shares declined 0.8 percent, hurt by weakness in telecom, consumer and energy stocks. Telecom major PLDT Inc fell as much as 3.5 percent to its lowest in about two weeks. Malaysian shares were largely unmoved by inflation data showing consumer price inflation hit an eight-year high in March, but slightly below a forecast in a Reuters poll. Bucking the trend, Vietnam posted marginal gains.
Indonesian stock markets were closed as Jakarta holds the second round of gubernatorial elections with the incumbent Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, and his Muslim opponent neck and neck in the race to lead Indonesia’s capital. The election campaign – which has been among the most divisive in the city’s history – has been marred by religious and ethnic tension over the blasphemy trial of Purnama, who is accused of insulting Islam. “We think an Ahok victory would be the foreign investor-friendly outcome,” ING said in a note.