Bull And Bears

Asian investors flee on Brexit decision

Local plays with exposure to Britain among worst-hit as STI ends day - and week - lower

Britain's vote to leave the European Union plunged Asian markets deeply into the red yesterday as traders fled to safety.

The Straits Times Index (STI) fell 58.46 points or 2.09 per cent to 2,735.39, despite trading higher in the morning. It was down 28.03 points or 1.01 per cent for the week.

Turnover shot up, with a total of 1.37 billion shares worth $1.77 billion changing hands across the bourse - the highest since May 31.

"Everybody is just watching and trying to absorb what's happening," Mr Tim Condon, head of Asian research at ING Group in Singapore, told Bloomberg.

"A lot of people have been caught off guard," he said, referring to earlier expectations for Britain to stay, which were quickly quashed as the results came in.

The losses were higher elsewhere. Tokyo led the regional selldown, crashing 7.92 per cent - the biggest decline since the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake - as the yen strengthened against major currencies.

Hong Kong sank 2.92 per cent, Shanghai slid 1.3 per cent, Seoul lost 3.09 per cent and Sydney slumped 3.17 per cent.

At home, not one of the 30 STI constituents racked up gains - 28 finished weaker, two were flat.

Unsurprisingly, property plays, especially those with exposure to Britain, came off among the worst hit: City Developments sank 38 cents or 4.4 per cent to $8.31 and CapitaLand lost nine cents or 3 per cent to $2.89.

Transport group ComfortDelGro, which has a presence in Britain, fell seven cents or 2.6 per cent to $2.67.

Hutchison Port Holdings Trust was among the biggest losers, dropping two US cents or 4.5 per cent to 42.5 US cents, and Golden Agri-Resources fell 1.5 cents or 4.2 per cent to 34 cents.

All three local lenders closed lower, led by DBS Group Holdings, which shed 43 cents or 2.7 per cent to $15.51. OCBC Bank slid 20 cents or 2.3 per cent to $8.38, and United Overseas Bank dropped 42 cents or 2.3 per cent to $17.85.

Offshore firm Ezra Holdings was the most heavily traded, down 0.3 cent or 3.9 per cent to 7.4 cents on turnover of 94.4 million units. Other actives included Noble Group and Genting Singapore.

Wall Street, which rallied 1.29 per cent overnight to clock its biggest gain since March 1, will likely take the lead from other global markets in the light of the Brexit decision.

"The immediate impact of Brexit has been a significant increase in risk aversion, which will hurt risk assets like global equities, including stock listed on the local bourse," said Mr Vasu Menon, vice-president and senior investment strategist at OCBC Bank.

"Singapore is a small and open economy with significant inter-linkages to the rest of the world, so the global uncertainties caused by Brexit may cast a pall on the local bourse, at least in the short term."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Asian investors flee on Brexit decision'. Print Edition | Subscribe