Local stocks ended a two-day recovery amid a confused picture over the Greek debt crisis. Optimism among some investors that Greece will stay in the euro zone sent several global markets up, but the Singapore market did not take the cue.
Despite its strong start at 3,354.82 yesterday, the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) quickly lost ground and lingered around the 3,330 level for much of the day. It closed 3.3 points or 0.1 per cent lower at 3,327.84.
Yesterday was a slow session that underlined the cautious sentiment among investors, with only 890.3 million shares traded.
Aside from Greece, market players are likely to be keeping a wary eye on the latest employment data due out in the United States today.
It is set to offer fresh signs the US recovery is on track, but anxiety that positive news will boost chances of an early interest rate hike, likely in September, capped gains by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which ended 0.8 per cent higher.
At home, Golden Agri-Resources was the best-performing blue chip. The crude palm oil producer rose one cent or 2.47 per cent to 41.5 cents. Rival Wilmar rose two cents or 0.61 per cent to $3.28, while First Resources, outside the STI, ended three cents or 1.45 per cent higher at $2.10, its highest level since mid-August last year.
1 : Greece's problems continue to weigh on the market. Job numbers out of the United States today will also be closely watched by investors.
2 : The Singapore Exchange was hit by a "trade with caution" warning yesterday. The counter jumped on Wednesday but lost about 1.22 per cent yesterday. Trade with caution warnings are issued when companies cannot explain unusual trading activity.
3 : The Reit sector will see more reforms after the Monetary Authority of Singapore released details of recommendations designed to boost investor protection. Disclosure of executive pay and caps on debt will boost corporate governance at these listed Reits.
4 : Listed companies are increasingly focusing on developed markets such as the United States. Ascott Residence Trust announced yesterday that it had acquired a hotel in New York's Times Square for US$163.5 million.
5 : On the economic front, there was some good news yesterday for a change. Activity at Singapore's factories hit a seven-month high in June, thanks to an increase in new orders, with the key electronics sector returning to growth, the Purchasing Managers' Index showed.
The sector's gains came as investors bet on tight production volume and better prices ahead owing to unfavourable weather. In a note yesterday, CIMB analyst Ivy Ng kept her neutral rating for palm oil plays.
Another gainer, Singapore Press Holdings, closed four cents or 0.99 per cent higher at $4.09, while Singapore Airlines rose 20 cents or 1.86 per cent to close at $10.95.
ComfortDelGro lost the most among STI constituent stocks, paring 10 cents or 3.12 per cent to end at $3.10. But OCBC Investment Research maintains its hold rating as it saw plenty of positives for the transport group heading into the year's second half, including an announcement this week that it is seeking opportunities in London's rail business.
The Singapore Exchange dropped 10 cents or 1.22 per cent to $8.08. Shares of the bourse operator cooled after a surge on Wednesday, which prompted a central bank query and a "trade with caution" warning.
Overseas, the selldown on Chinese stocks showed no sign of abating, as Shanghai pared 3.48 per cent to drop below the key support level of 4,000 for the first time since April. This came despite China's securities regulator relaxing rules on margin trading on Wednesday.
Hong Kong was also subdued, rising 0.12 per cent.
Tokyo, however, gained 0.95 per cent, while Kuala Lumpur added 0.34 per cent. The Malaysian market rallied along with the ringgit, as sentiment on the country improved after Fitch upgraded its credit rating outlook.