Asia equities tumble, Singapore shares gain marginally, STI closes 1 point up

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares managed to eke out a modest gain on Monday against the broader gloom pervading regional markets.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) climbed 0.92 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 2,809.24, reversing its losses in late afternoon trade.

Equities elsewhere in Asia tumbled on the back of a stronger yen, amid growing concerns that central banks are losing firepower to spur growth in the global economy.

Tokyo slid 0.5 per cent while Seoul and Sydney both dipped 0.1 per cent.

Shanghai bucked the trend to rise 1.6 per cent after Chinese data for March showed that inflation remained steady, which indicates the economy could be stabilising. This helped pull Hong Kong up as well by 0.4 per cent.

"Yen strength is really hurting at the moment," Mr Steve Brice, chief investment strategist at Standard Chartered Bank, told Bloomberg TV in Singapore.

"It's shaken a lot of people's confidence in Abenomics and the underlying thesis behind holding Japanese equities. The extent of the strength we've seen has surprised pretty much everybody."

In the United States, Wall Street edged up 0.2 per cent last Friday, buoyed by a surge in oil prices.

The Federal Reserve called for a surprise expedited meeting to review and discuss advance and discount rates charged by the Fed banks, while President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet Fed Chair Janet Yellen to discuss the US economy.

At home, the local lenders were among the day's gainers, with DBS Group Holdings adding six cents or 0.4 per cent to S$15.06 and United Overseas Bank edging up three cents or 0.2 per cent to S$18.56.

OCBC Bank, which last week announced it is buying British bank Barclays' wealth and investment management businesses in Singapore and Hong Kong for US$320 million, grew nine cents or 1 per cent to S$8.87.

Property giant CapitaLand rose four cents or 1.3 per cent to S$3.02, while Ascendas Reit advanced four cents or 1.7 per cent to S$2.42.

Outside of the blue chips, Osim International added two cents or 1.5 per cent to S$1.39. Founder Ron Sim, who plans to take the company private, upped his cash offer to S$1.41 per share last Friday.

A total of 1.11 billion shares worth just S$760.3 million changed hands across the bourse.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg