Only one major Asia Pacific index notched gains in the first half of 2020 – CNBC

Employees and visitors wearing protective masks walk past an electronic stock board at the Shanghai Stock Exchange in Shanghai, China, on Monday, March 2, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Only one major index in Asia Pacific ended the first half of 2020 in positive territory.

China’s CSI 300, which tracks the largest stocks listed on the mainland, has gained 1.64% in the past six months.

The rest of the major markets in the region painted a bleak picture of continued pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s despite many countries in Asia Pacific garnering international praise for their efforts in curbing the virus’ spread.

In New Zealand, a country that has arguably had the greatest success in containing the coronavirus outbreak domestically, the NZX 50 index still sat approximately 0.4% lower so far this year. Taiwan’s economy has been hailed as having held up “extremely well,” but the Taiex has still fallen more than 3% in 2020.

Southeast Asia’s best-performing market was Malaysia’s FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index — but even that was more than 5% lower for the year so far. In Vietnam, another country often lauded for its success in containing the virus, the VN-Index is still around 14% lower year to date. 

Here’s how other major Asia Pacific markets have performed so far in 2020, based on data from Refinitiv Eikon as well as CNBC calculations as of their Tuesday close:

Roller coaster 2020

The year initially started on a high note as the U.S. and China signed a phase one trade deal. That brought some relief from the protracted tensions between the two economic powerhouses, which slapped punitive tariffs on each other’s goods.

But the rapid spread of the coronavirus left economies effectively frozen, as authorities around the globe scrambled to contain its spread through lockdown measures.

The drop off in economic activity created a panic in global markets, which sold off in March. They have since surged from their lows as governments and central banks globally took unprecedented steps to support financial markets.

Still, more uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus may lie ahead in 2020. A recent surge in cases stateside has raised questions over the possibility of economies going back into lockdown. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Monday that “the worst is yet to come.”

“Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said during a virtual news conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over.” 

So far, more than 10 million cases of coronavirus infections have been reported globally while at least half a million lives have been taken, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In a Friday note, Shane Oliver, AMP Capital’s head of investment strategy and chief economist, highlighted “three big risks” ahead for markets:

  1. A second wave of coronavirus cases resulting in a renewed shutdown that could “drive a much deeper fall” in stocks.
  2. “Collateral damage” from the shutdown leading to a “stalling” in the recovery following the initial bounce.
  3. The upcoming U.S. presidential election in November where incumbent Donald Trump is expected to appeal to his base by ramping up tensions with China and possibly, even Europe.

“After a strong rally from March lows shares remain vulnerable to short term setbacks given uncertainties around coronavirus, economic recovery and US/China tensions. But on a 6 to 12-month horizon shares are expected to see good total returns helped by a pick-up in economic activity and massive policy stimulus,” Oliver said.

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