Asian markets gain over positive Wall Street lead, STI closes 11 points up

The Straits Times Index rose for a third consecutive day, climbing 10.68 points to 2,863.65.
The Straits Times Index rose for a third consecutive day, climbing 10.68 points to 2,863.65.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Asian stock markets were mostly up on Wednesday, ahead of the long Christmas holiday, following a positive lead in the United States.

Wall Street rose 0.96 per cent overnight, lifted by gains in commodity shares, while data showed an uptake in consumer spending amid slowing growth overseas.

Taking its cue from the US, the Straits Times Index extended its gains for the third consecutive day, climbing 10.68 points or 0.37 per cent to 2,863.65.

Elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong saw its best day in two weeks with a 1 per cent increase, bolstered by oil giants PetroChina, CNOOC and Sinopec on the back of a rebound in oil prices. Seoul grew 0.3 per cent, Jakarta inched up 0.1 per cent, while Sydney added 0.5 per cent.

Shanghai, however, was an outlier as it erased gains in the final hour of trading, snapping a two-day rally.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

"Consumer spending looks like it's helping the US economy," Mr James Lindsay, an Auckland-based fund manager at Nikko Asset Management Co that oversees US$160 billion, told Bloomberg.

"The key things are still what happens with China, the flow-on effects into commodities and what the Fed does."

At home, the blue-chip index was bolstered by the three local banks, all of which posted gains. DBS Group Holdings grew 19 cents or 1.2 per cent to S$16.54; OCBC Bank advanced five cents or 0.6 per cent to S$8.77; and United Overseas Bank edged up 15 cents or 0.8 per cent to S$19.39.

Commodities trader Noble Group was among the top performers as well, rising two cents or 4.5 per cent to 46 Singapore cents. The counter was also the day's most active, with 81.6 units being traded.The firm Wednesday announced it has signed its first liquefied natural gas sales contract in the Asia-Pacific region as it shifts its focus from agricultural commodity trading to energy.

It had earlier sold the remaining 49 per cent stake in its agribusiness, Noble Agri, to China's state-owned COFCO International for US$750 million in order to cut debt.

"The disposal helps the struggling company to raise the cash needed to avert a credit downgrade to junk status from S&P and Moody's, and also to get rid of a liability relating to the subsidiary from Noble's accounts," noted IG market strategist Bernard Aw.

Overall trading on the bourse was light, with 1.3 million shares worth S$709.1 million changing hands. The local stock market will be shut after a half-day trading session tomorrow.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg