Bulls And Bears

Bears continue to maul Asian markets

Respite from China market closures, but investors still exit ahead of US jobs report

The bear kept its chokehold on regional markets yesterday as investors sold down ahead of the latest United States jobs report.

Mainland Chinese markets were closed for a holiday, so investors had a respite from further shocks there, but Asia-Pacific shares still ended in the red.

Hong Kong lost 0.45 per cent, Kuala Lumpur was down 0.85 per cent and Tokyo ended 2.15 per cent lower. At home, the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) closed 42.62 points or 1.47 per cent lower at 2,863.81. It was down 3.12 per cent for the week.

Excluding Japan, Asia-Pacific shares lost more than 4 per cent overall this week - their worst five-day streak in four years.

Remisier Desmond Leong said people were spooked by the rout in China. He said the focus is now on the US, as new jobs data gives a clue to economic conditions there and perhaps when a rate hike will come.

"But sentiments have definitely weakened," he said, "and the string of weak data in Asia does not give much reason for confidence."

The US non-farm payroll report, released after Asian bourses closed yesterday, showed 173,000 new jobs were created last month - fewer than expected.

Apart from concerns over the US and China's lacklustre export and manufacturing figures, local investors are also worried about conditions here. Economists have cut third-quarter growth forecasts from 2.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent.

"Many are waiting on the sidelines to see how things go next week. If the Chinese markets open poorly, the STI could test another new low," Mr Leong said.

Not surprisingly, 27 of the 30 STI constituent counters fell yesterday. Only SIA Engineering rose, by one cent to $3.40. CapitaLand Mall Trust and Thai Beverage ended flat.

Among blue chips, the main loser was Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which fell 2.5 US cents to 54 US cents, snapping a two-day advance. Global Logistic Properties was down nine cents at $2.04.

The three counters to be removed from the STI - Jardine Matheson Holdings, Jardine Strategic Holdings and Olam International - were all down by over 2 per cent, a day after the announcement.

Jardine Matheson fell US$1.12 to US$49.20, Jardine Strategic closed 73 US cents down at US$27.72, and Olam lost five cents, ending at $1.98.

The trio set to replace them on Sept 21 in the STI - UOL Group, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings and Sats - were boosted by their newfound stature.

UOL gained three cents to $6.08 while Yangzijiang Shipbuilding was up 2.5 cents at $1.085. Sats was up the most, rising 19 cents to $3.71.

"The three counters definitely benefited from the news that they will enter the STI soon. This means more fund managers will look at them as options for building positions. I expect some short-term boost to their prices," Mr Leong said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Bears continue to maul Asian markets'. Print Edition | Subscribe