Bulls And Bears

Another day of muted trading for local shares

STI losers outnumber winners even as US markets gain on tax Bill advancement

Yesterday was another day of muted trading, with investors downbeat despite liquidity continuing to slosh around global markets.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) briefly hit a 21/2 year high of 3,449.32 points but retreated to close at 3,438.99, down 3.36 for the day.

A positive turn in United States equity markets overnight helped lift Asian bourses. The S&P 500 gained 0.98 per cent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.09 per cent.

This came as the Senate Budget committee voted to send the Republican tax Bill to a full vote of the Chamber - a significant step towards passing the sweeping package of tax cuts.

"In line with US markets, financial and industrial names will be in the spotlight in this region, ones to ride on the tax reform wave," said IG market strategist Pan Jingyi.

Still, Singapore's broader market isn't feeling too good with losers outnumbering gainers for the third day in a row.

One loser to catch the eye was Hyflux. The water treatment firm was an exemplar of a local firm that ventured successfully abroad but the lustre has faded and some analysts, sensing muted prospects, have abandoned coverage.

The stock fell 0.5 cent to 37.5 cents - a near 15-year low - yesterday, with more than 16 million shares changing hands.

One reason is that its Tuaspring plant has not been doing well due to weak power prices. When earnings and cash flow are weak, pressures from debt servicing pile up.

The firm is trading at half its book value, yet to have so many shares changing hands in a technically oversold situation is intriguing.

By contrast, property play Tuan Sing Holdings hit a three-year high, rising four cents or nearly 10 per cent to 45.5 cents.

The firm, controlled by the family of Indonesian tycoon Liem Tek Siong, has almost $1 billion worth of equity in commercial buildings, hotels and condo developments.

Looking back over the month, much of the 60-odd points gained by the STI was due to the three local banks, led by DBS, and casino play Genting Singapore.

Palm oil giant Wilmar International and property plays City Developments and CapitaLand acted as a drag on the index.

The banks are approaching technically overbought territory, though if interest rates keep rising and the global economy keeps recovering, they can still do very well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'Another day of muted trading for local shares'. Print Edition | Subscribe