SINGAPORE: Singapore’s stock market plunged more than 4 per cent on Thursday (Mar 12) after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic and the United States announced a 30-day ban on travel from Europe over the coronavirus.

The benchmark Straits Times Index fell as much as 4.2 per cent to 2,666.05 during intra-day trading, Bloomberg data showed.

This is the lowest since March 2016, when it touched 2,654.98, according to data from investing.com.

Year-to-date, the STI has fallen about 13.6 per cent.

“As an open and small economy, Singapore is very susceptible to external shocks and thus vulnerable to a global selloff,” Ms Margaret Yang, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said in a note to CNA.

READ: COVID-19 outbreak ‘a pandemic’ – WHO chief

Asian markets were a sea of red at the open, with traders taking their lead from a global rout as the WHO declared the spread of the coronavirus was officially a pandemic.

But Trump’s announcement of the 30-day ban, which excludes Britain, caused further selling, despite a series of measures intended to ease the financial pain of the outbreak, which has paralysed travel and hit businesses around the world.

Oil prices were also hammered after Trump’s comments, with both main contracts falling around 6 per cent.

READ: US to suspend all travel from Europe for 30 days to fight COVID-19 outbreak

“At the crux of the issue is the fear of the prolonged, widespread coronavirus sustaining its hold on the market. Even though we do have substantial support coming through from governments and central banks alike, the dispersion of the virus so far continues to mark the risks of dragging the global economy into recession,” Ms Pan Jingyi, market strategist at IG, said in a note.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei ended the morning session down 5.17 per cent at 18,412.24, while the broader Topix was down 4.78 per cent at 1,318.96.

Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila all fell more than 4 per cent.

The losses followed another brutal session on the US markets, with wave after wave of bad news, including Hilton withdrawing its earnings forecast and Boeing saying it would suspend most hiring and overtime pay.

The coronavirus outbreak has left virtually no sector untouched, though travel and tourism have been particularly hard-hit as countries institute travel bans and quarantine requirements.

Globally, about 126,000 have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 4,600 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index plunged around 1,465 points, or 5.9 per cent, to 23,553.22 on Wednesday, in a bruising session that left the index more than 20 per cent below its peak, making it a bear market.

Leading stock markets in Europe also retreated, including the FTSE 100 which dropped 1.4 per cent despite the Bank of England slashing its key interest rate to a record low and the government pledging US$39 billion of fiscal stimulus.

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