Bulls And Bears

Asia markets extend rally with modest gains

Optimism over crude oil prices, upcoming interest rate hikes in US continues to pick up

Asia markets moved higher for the second day, albeit with modest gains, as optimism over crude prices and the upcoming rate hikes in the United States continued to pick up.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) inched up 6.65 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 2,773.31.

Elsewhere in the region, Shanghai rose 0.26 per cent, helped by buying in large-cap stocks, while Hong Kong added 0.14 per cent and Tokyo put on 0.09 per cent.

The positive sentiment was likely carried over from Wall Street, up 0.82 per cent overnight, thanks to signs of a stronger economy.

"We've seen some positive movement in the past two days, driven mostly by receding fears over higher interest rates in the US, given the stronger economic numbers," said Mr Kelvin Wong, City Index's chief technical strategist for Asia. "But this seems to be short-term speculation. All things being equal, things are still pretty negative in the market."

Singapore, for instance, has been "underperforming" compared with its peers in the region as it tracks China, where sentiment is still muted with few positive catalysts. "And the rally in oil prices appears to be reaching an exhaustion target."

Gains on the STI were capped by stocks such as the Singapore Exchange, which slid nine cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $7.58. The bourse operator confirmed yesterday that it has entered into exclusive talks to acquire the Baltic Exchange - a deal that could be priced at around US$100 million (S$138 million), according to observers.

On the other hand, oil and gas-related plays were among the biggest winners as crude prices surpassed the US$50 a barrel mark.

Keppel Corporation rose 13 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $5.40. Sembcorp Marine advanced two cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $1.56, while parent firm Sembcorp Industries added three cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $2.79.

Outside the STI, offshore contractor Ezra Holdings rose 0.2 cent, or 2.9 per cent, to seven cents in heavy trade, and Vallianz Holdings gained 0.1 cent, or 2.6 per cent, to 3.9 cents.

Property development and investment firm Cedar Strategic Holdings was the day's most heavily traded on a volume of 133 million shares. It closed flat at 0.4 cent.

Metro Holdings sank four cents, or 3.7 per cent, to $1.05. The retailer and property developer had announced that its fourth-quarter net profit fell 84.8 per cent to $1.12 million on lower sales and exchange differences.

Religare Health Trust climbed half a cent, or 0.5 per cent, to $1.015, after reporting a 1.4 per cent rise in fourth-quarter distributable income to $15.3 million.

DBS Vickers said it maintains a "hold" call on the stock and expects the trust to continue to deliver "decent organic growth on the back of a robust outlook in the Indian healthcare sector and steady increase in average revenue per operating bed".

About 974.8 million units worth $775 million were traded across the bourse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Asia markets extend rally with modest gains'. Print Edition | Subscribe