Singapore shares drifted lower on lacklustre volumes at the start of a new week, amid a lack of direction from key financial markets.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) shed 4.87 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 3,214.55 yesterday, with turnover of 1.15 billion shares worth a mere $625.7 million.
Other markets in Asia mostly finished lower as well. Tokyo was flat, easing just 0.02 per cent, while Kuala Lumpur was down 0.42 per cent and Sydney dropped 0.78 per cent. Hong Kong put on 0.24 per cent, led by property counters. The mainland Chinese markets and Wall Street were shut for a holiday.
Traders were largely unfazed by the missile firing from North Korea, and likely sat on the sidelines as they awaited China's manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index numbers due later in the week.
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At home, half of the 30 STI constituents closed in the red, while 12 clocked gains and three remained unchanged.
In a telling statistic, retail investors here sold $210.1 million in shares for the whole of last week - a marked reversal from the week before, where they bought $11 million in shares, going by figures from the Singapore Exchange.
Palm oil giant Golden-Agri Resources was one of the biggest laggards yesterday, slumping 5.2 per cent or two cents to 36.5 cents, while ST Engineering fell 1.6 per cent or six cents to $3.66.
On the other side of the ledger, CapitaLand Commercial Trust rose 1.2 per cent or two cents to $1.655, and Sembcorp Industries added 1 per cent or three cents to $3.18.
The local lenders were a mixed bag. DBS Group Holdings inched up 0.2 per cent or four cents to $20.84 and OCBC Bank rose 0.1 per cent or one cent to $10.44, although United Overseas Bank pared 0.09 per cent or two cents to $23.35.
New Silkroutes Group jumped 4.5 per cent or three cents to 70 cents, after announcing it will acquire majority control of eight dental clinics and two dental equipment suppliers in Singapore for $5.28 million. The group said the move will allow it to expand the capabilities of a recently installed healthcare unit, Healthsciences International, acquired last December.
Local technology counters were in play, as the absence of fresh leads saw traders running back to old ideas, said a NetResearch Asia note. "The flows are good, the trend remains up and prospects remain robust," said a trader.
AEM Holdings, for example, rose 4.2 per cent or 11 cents to $2.76. A recent DBS Equity Research report said the firm's successful development of next-generation equipment has set it on a new growth path, and expects the stock price to hit a fair value of $3.35.
The most traded counter was Advanced Systems Automation, flat at 0.1 cent on 183.4 million shares done. Other actives included Addvalue Technologies, jumping 6.2 per cent or 0.4 cent to 6.1 cents.