In a mixed morning on Asian exchanges, Singapore and Indonesian stocks rose about 1% to their highest since early March, while both Thai and Philippine markets lost ground.
Political tensions continued to simmer in Bangkok, with Thai police saying they would deploy nearly 6,000 officers for a demonstration by protesters demanding that King Maha Vajiralongkorn give up personal control of the assets.
The Malaysian benchmark was hit by a 7.5% slump for Top Glove as the government said it was closing 28 factory buildings due to a surge in people testing positive in the area where the plants and dormitories are located.
Analysts said the heavy weighting of the rubber industry and glove manufacturers, “none of which are likely to outperform in a post-Covid world”, also dragged down the index as results of vaccine tests hinted at a road out of the pandemic globally.
Palm oil stocks were also down, tracking a decline in Malaysian palm oil futures, with the world’s largest palm oil planter by land size, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, falling 1.4%.
Philippine stocks declined 1% as investors took some profit after rallying in recent sessions due to a 25 basis point cut in interest rates and broader optimism around the prospects for a global recovery.
“PSEi has gained a lot in the last (few) days and it seems players were ready to collect,” said Ruben Carlo O Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines.
Elsewhere, news that US President-elect Joe Biden was given the go-ahead to begin his White House transition spurred more optimism around trade and growth-reliant markets.
J.P. Morgan analysts upgraded Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore equities to “overweight”, adding that a vaccine and new US fiscal easing would boost growth forecasts for the broader ASEAN market starting from the second quarter of fiscal 2021.
“A Biden victory potentially reduces the geopolitical risk premium on EM equities. Further, a potentially weaker US dollar and strong ASEAN FX could benefit the performance of equities in the region,” they said.