Singapore shares rise as markets adjust quickly to Brussels attacks

Singapore shares rose at the get-go on Wednesday (March 23) after Wall Street shrugged off news of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels.
Singapore shares rose at the get-go on Wednesday (March 23) after Wall Street shrugged off news of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares rose at the get-go on Wednesday (March 23) after Wall Street shrugged off news of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels that killed at least 31 people.

The Straits Times Index climbed as much as 0.5 per cent or nearly 14.97 points to 2,895.62 before giving back some gains to 2,886.28 as at 12.15 pm.

In the rest of Asia, most markets edged down but held near 3 1/2 month highs hit earlier this week as investors took comfort from a brightening global economic picture.

Japan's Nikkei inched up 0.2 per cent. Chinese shares inched down, with both the Shanghai Composite and the CSI 300 down 0.1 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.3 per cent.

Remisiers say the local bourse managed to hold its ground because much of the initial knee-jerk selling had taken place on Tuesday and after US stocks showed resilience overnight.

"There was already quite a bit of selling yesterday when the news of the attacks broke around 3.30 pm-4 pm, so that was the first reaction. But this morning, after digesting it, the buyers came back," remisier Chung Chun He said.

After hitting resistance at 2,900, the market is expected to trade in a range between 2,850 and 2,900, traders said. Trading is thin, with 354.5 million shares traded as at noon.

"Markets don't like a short trading week," remisier Alvin Yong said. The Singapore stock market is closed on Friday for Good Friday.

"We are waiting for the next wave of news on the next central bank action, which will likely come from Bank of Japan meeting next month, or the next major oil movement," Mr Chung said.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Budget, which will be delivered tomorrow, is on the radar of market participants, but some are not holding their breath.

"We were disappointed with last year's SG50 Budget, which was focused more on social welfare spending than assistance for businesses. If there are measures or initiatives in this year's budget to help SMEs reduce their business costs, or any cuts in corporate taxes, that will be good for stocks," Mr Yong said.

Mr Chung said he doesn't know what to expect for this budget. "Last year's budget didn't have much effect on stocks. If the government targets the budget at specific sectors or industries, then we may see movement in the stock prices of companies in that sector."

The ringgit headed for its biggest two-day gain since late January, supported by a rally in oil prices from 12-year lows, and on reports that beleaguered state-investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd is close to selling its power assets for 9.83 billion ringgit.

As at 12.15 pm, the ringgit rose to 3.9895 against the greenback from 4.0055 yesterday and 4.0615 on Monday. The Malaysian currency also firmed to 2.9247 against the Sing dollar from 2.9467 yesterday and 2.9897 on Monday.

News of the attacks also weighed on the British pound, which traded at a new 2016 low of 1.9370 against the Singdollar, compared with 1.9426 yesterday and 1.9566 on Monday.