EMERGING MARKETS-Asian stocks jittery ahead of Fed meeting; virus cases in India dip | Reuters

Asian stocks lacked direction on Tuesday, as a surge in virus cases in the region and the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting this week kept investors on edge, while stocks in India gained after new coronavirus cases in the country retreated from Monday's record levels. Indian equities rose as much as 1% to hit an over 10-day high, with industrials leading the gains, as investors awaited a slew of quarterly results later in the day. The coronavirus crisis in the South Asian country, however, remained grim even as the daily rise in cases retreated from record levels on Tuesday, but stayed above the 300,000 mark for a sixth straight day. "That 2021 would usher in a distinct turnaround in the pandemic situation for the ASEAN-6 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) countries and India is now confirmed to be a lofty hope," Lavanya Venkateswaran, Market Economist at Mizuho wrote in a note. "A lot of hope is riding on the vaccination drive in these countries to stem the spread of COVID-19 but so far, the pace of vaccinations has been slow and in the case of India, unable to keep up with the rapid outbreak," she added. Investors will likely avoid making big bets ahead of the Fed's meeting later this week, where Chair Jerome Powell is likely to shed light on whether improving economic conditions warrant a tapering of monetary easing. Malaysian shares recorded relatively larger losses, falling as much as 1.1% and eyeing their worst session in nearly four weeks. The nation registered 2,776 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths on April 26. "We are seeing surging coronavirus cases in Malaysia ... And the trend seems to be rising," said Margaret Yang, strategist at DailyFX. "Border controls are tightening across the Asia-Pacific region, and with more cases emerging, opening up in the tourism sector could be delayed further. Tourism-reliant economies such as Thailand, Philippines ... even Malaysia can be vulnerable against this headwind," she added Thai stocks edged 0.3% higher, even as the government shuttered parks, gyms and cinemas in Bangkok, the epicentre of the latest wave of infections, as Thailand reported yet another daily record of 15 virus deaths. South Korea's economic growth beat expectations in the first quarter, data showed on Tuesday, as global demand surged and the government maintained support for ailing small businesses. The won closed 0.3% higher, while the country's shares ended the session marginally lower. Equities in Singapore stood firm at 0.1% a day after the city-state reported higher-than-expected manufacturing output for March. Highlights ** Top loser on the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index was Hartalega Holdings Bhd HTHB.KL, down 3.76% ** In the Philippines, top index loser was Bloomberry Resorts Corp, down 3.59% ** The biggest gainers in the NSE index were Hindalco Industries Ltd and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0749 GMT COUNTRY FX RIC FX FX INDEX STOCKS STOCKS DAILY YTD % DAILY YTD % % % Japan -0.19 -4.66 -0.46 5.64 China +0.04 +0.69 0.04 -0.88 India +0.18 -2.03 0.76 4.39 Indonesia -0.03 -3.07 -0.08 -0.32 Malaysia +0.02 -1.83 -1.01 -1.24 Philippines -0.15 -0.81 -0.52 -10.97 S.Korea +0.25 -2.18 -0.07 11.90 Singapore -0.04 -0.35 0.09 12.80 Taiwan +0.24 +2.12 0.13 19.44 Thailand +0.13 -4.49 0.31 7.94 (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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