Singapore shares posted a third straight day of gains, to reach their highest level in three weeks, but trading was light ahead of a key Federal Reserve speech.
The Straits Times Index closed 7.36 points or 0.26 per cent higher at 2,876.93, the best finish since the start of August. But the uptick was achieved in a slow session with just 698.2 million shares worth $654.2 million traded across the market.
Some investors remained wary of what Fed chairman Janet Yellen may signal in her speech after the market close tonight. The STI was choppy all day, range-bound between 2,865 and 2,879. Elsewhere, Asian bourses were mixed. Shanghai slid 0.57 per cent, Hong Kong fell 0.03 per cent, Tokyo was off 0.25 per cent. This followed a 0.35 per cent drop on Wall Street overnight.
Amid the lacklustre outing across the region, the Singapore market's modest gain was looked upon with little enthusiasm, as analysts pointed to strong economic headwinds in the longer term.
"The Singapore equity market has subsequently relapsed after an earlier bounce in 2016. The equity market has underperformed MSCI World since mid-2015… We remain bearish (on Singapore) within our global asset allocation," Jefferies analysts said in a note yesterday.
Still, 14 STI components rose, including all three local banks. United Overseas Bank rose 20 cents or 1.12 per cent to $18.08, OCBC closed up four cents or 0.46 per cent at $8.67, and DBS Group Holdings put on six cents or 0.39 per cent to $15.27.
Some market interest is returning to the banking stocks. OCBC and UOB both gained over 2 per cent in the past two days, while DBS rose 1.8 per cent in the same period.
Singapore Press Holdings closed four cents or 1.05 per cent higher at $3.86, and Thai Beverage rose one cent or 1.01 per cent to $1 with 15.4 million shares done.
Meanwhile, Golden Agri-Resources fell further, off one cent or 2.74 per cent to 35.5 cents, on 25.1 million shares done. Global Logistic Properties pared 2.5 cents or 1.30 per cent to $1.895. Sembcorp Marine was down 1.5 cents or 1.12 per cent to $1.32, while Keppel Corp was off one cent or 0.19 per cent to $5.39.
OCBC analyst Low Pei Han maintained her neutral view on the overall oil and gas sector, cautioning about tough times ahead for operators along the whole value chain. "Order flow has dwindled and is likely to remain so until oil prices show signs of a sustained recovery. Confidence has to come back to oil and gas companies, which will then award projects, benefiting companies lower down the value chain," she said in a note yesterday.
Outside the STI, healthcare facility operator International Healthway Corp rose 0.2 cent or 5.26 per cent to four cents. But others in the healthcare segment did not fare as well, with Singapore O&G dropping two cents or 1.68 per cent to $1.17, as Raffles Medical Group pared half a cent or 0.33 per cent to $1.505.