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Philippine stock index plummets below 4,500

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The Philippine Stock Exchange recorded its steepest fall as the market reopened for trading.

The stock market resumed operations following a two-day shutdown after Luzon went under enhanced community quarantine, as authorities scrambled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

At the open, shares quickly plummeted by 12.4 percent to 4,673.58, triggering a 15-minute trading halt in a bid to calm investors. That did not stop the massive selloff at the local bourse, with shares crashing to a midday low of 4,039.15, which is more than 1,000 points or down 24 percent than Monday's 5,335.37 close.

Luis Limlingan, managing director of Regina Capital, said this was easily the biggest fall on record.

"Shares have plummeted as investors worried about the economic damage from the pandemic," Limlingan said in a text message, adding that plunging world crude prices has added to "rising worries" regarding a global recession.

The government restricted movement and business operations in the entire Luzon, only allowing workers in critical industries like healthcare, food preparation, banks, groceries, and media to report to work while the rest were told to stay at home. Malls and offices have been shut, with the state appealing for work-from-home arrangements until mid-April.

As of 12 noon, the benchmark PSE index managed to reduce its losses, but still settled 10.97 percent lower at 4,749.85.

Trading closes at 1 p.m. — two hours earlier than usual — as financial markets observe shortened work schedule. The PSE trading floor in Bonifacio Global City will remain closed, so trades are done remotely.

The Philippines was the first to shut down its financial markets due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This was the first trading day under enhanced quarantine protocols.

There are currently 202 cases of the disease in the country, with 17 deaths. Seven have recovered.

Markets in other countries have remained open despite huge losses, as the rising number of cases continue to spook investors. Local traders said market jitters would persist until they hear concrete strategies from the Philippine government in containing the pandemic.

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