Singapore shares ease as investors fret over drop in Chinese imports data

Singapore shares fell on Monday, partly due to an announcement from China they day before that its imports fell by 19.7 per cent in January, the largest drop in five years. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Singapore shares fell on Monday, partly due to an announcement from China they day before that its imports fell by 19.7 per cent in January, the largest drop in five years. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Local stocks fell on Monday after disappointing economic data out from China, fears over the Greek debt woes and market worries over a potentially earlier interest rate hike in the United States.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) dropped 13.3 points or 0.4 per cent to 3,418.02.

Sentiment was downbeat after China announced on Sunday that its imports fell by 19.7 per cent in January, the largest drop in five years.

Slowing growth in the world's second largest economy due to lower commodity prices and declining domestic demand cast a pall on exporters and companies with high exposure to China.

Greece also weighed on markets after its newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a defiant speech in parliament on Sunday rejecting a current bailout deal.

The country could run out of money by the end of this month, leading to a default of its debt and even exit from the eurozone if no new deal is reached.

An emergency meeting of the eurozone's finance ministers on the Greek situation will be held on Wednesday.

A better-than-expected jobs report out of the US on Friday raised the possibility of an earlier interest rate hike, with analysts worried that the expected timetable could be moved forward from the second half this year.

Asian bourses had mixed performances, with Tokyo up by 0.4 per cent after the yen weakened against the US dollar on the strong jobs report.

Shanghai also rose 0.6 per cent on hopes the Chinese government would do more to stimulate growth while Hong Kong dropped 0.6 per cent and Seoul lost 0.4 per cent.