Asian markets cheer Fed rate hike news, STI closes 2 points up

SINGAPORE - Word from the United States Federal Reserve overnight that interest rate hikes will be gradual gave Asian markets something to cheer and sent Singapore shares up for the second day.

Wall Street also breathed a sigh of relief and drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.64 per cent.

This gave many key markets in the region a strong start on Thursday, although the afternoon sessions were weaker.

Hong Kong ended with a 0.29 per cent gain, Tokyo put on 0.22 per cent and Sydney rose 0.37 per cent. Shanghai dropped 1.38 per cent, as investors took their money off the table ahead of key economic data due in coming days.

Singapore benchmark Straits Times Index closed up 2.34 points or 0.08 per cent at 2,813.59, marking its first two-day gain in two weeks.

Thirteen of the 30 STI constituents rose, and OCBC was among the gainers, adding nine cents or 1.03 per cent to S$8.81. This followed the morning announcement that its subsidiary Bank of Singapore is acquiring Barclays' wealth management business here and Hong Kong.

DBS and United Overseas Bank also gained. DBS put on six cents or 0.4 per cent to S$15.09 while UOB advanced four cents or 0.21 per cent at S$18.75.

Singapore Press Holdings rose two cents or 0.51 per cent to $3.98, and Keppel Corp added seven cents or 1.24 per cent to $5.72 as crude oil futures Brent hit above US$39 a barrel.

Meanwhile, SingTel remained bumpy, dropping five cents or 1.33 per cent to $3.72, likely due to profit-taking on Wednesday's gain.

OCBC analyst Carey Wong, however, noted the telco's positive outlook, referring to its marine cybersecurity partnership with Inmarsat announced two days ago.

"SingTel remains our top pick among the three local telcos, given its ability to grow beyond the traditional telco services into cybersecurity, big data analytics and digital marketing," Mr Wong said.

Thai Beverage dropped one cent or 1.36 per cent to 72.5 cents, and Capitaland shed one cent or 0.33 per cent to $3.01.

whwong@sph.com.sg