Singapore shares lost ground as investors cleared the decks to avoid any knee-jerk reaction next week that may be set off by Federal Reserve signals on an interest rate hike.
The Straits Times Index slid 19.28 points or 0.67 per cent to close at 2,857.65, ahead of a speech by United States Fed chair Janet Yellen after the market closed yesterday.
Trading volume was again very thin amid the cautious mood, with only 579.2 million shares worth $615.6 million transacted across the whole market. For the week, the STI still eked out a gain of 0.48 per cent, but this belied the fact that only 606.8 million blue chip shares were traded in the five-day session - the slowest since the start of the year.
In the region, Shanghai added a marginal 0.06 per cent yesterday but was off 1.2 per cent for the week, while Tokyo dipped 1.1 per cent over the five days.
Investors in Singapore had more bad news on the economy yesterday, with data showing that the July manufacturing output had declined 3.6 per cent year on year.
Investors were equally unimpressed by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih's statement that no major intervention on oil output is expected. Such intervention could ease the oversupply situation and help lift prices.
With no reason to cheer, 23 of the 30 STI component stocks fell yesterday, led by Global Logistic Properties, which pared four cents or 2.11 per cent to $1.855 on 22.6 million shares changing hands. StarHub fell seven cents or 1.84 per cent to $3.73 and Singtel slid five cents or 1.17 per cent to $4.22.
M1, outside the STI, shed four cents or 1.47 per cent to $2.69.
The telco sector is now being viewed with caution as the spectrum auction due in October may herald the arrival of a fourth player in the competitive market.
Singtel, with the largest international exposure, is seen as being less vulnerable to any potential impact. This was further enhanced by Temasek Holdings' recent decision to sell its stake in Thai telco Intouch Holdings and India's Bharti Telecom, both to Singtel.
Only five STI counters ended in the black. ComfortDelGro rose two cents or 0.71 per cent to $2.84 with 16.5 million shares traded, while Genting Singapore added half a cent or 0.67 per cent to 75.5 cents.
ComfortDelGro may have been boosted by investors hoping for a windfall with the bus-contracting model run by the Land Transport Authority taking effect on Sept 1. The model will see the Government paying bus owners like ComfortDelGro - a 75-per-cent owner of SBS Transit - to take over the vehicles.
Noble Group added 0.1 cent or 0.78 per cent to 12.9 cents with 64.4 million shares changing hands - yesterday's top active. CNMC Goldmine pared one cent or 1.69 per cent to 58 cents, with 12.1 million shares changing hands.
But gold remains in bull territory, the Singapore Exchange said yesterday in a report. Its data showed that the three largest gold mining stocks here - CNMC Goldmine, Wilton Resources and Anchor Resources - have averaged a total return of 75.6 per cent so far this year.