Bulls And Bears

STI closes in on two-year high

Charge led by three local banks, seen as recovering from loan exposure to oil sector

The Singapore market maintained its upward momentum as trading resumed yesterday after a one-day holiday break.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) rose 21.14 points or 0.65 per cent to 3,271.11 - extending gains from Tuesday, when it hit its highest level in nearly two years.

Some 1.57 billion shares worth $1.84 billion changed hands.

The three local banks again led the charge, with DBS Group Holdings rising by a solid 2.1 per cent or 43 cents to $20.93, and United Overseas Bank gaining 1.8 per cent or 42 cents to $23.97.

OCBC Bank, which announced it has agreed to acquire National Australia Bank's private wealth business in Singapore and Hong Kong, advanced 1 per cent or 10 cents to $10.56. It reported a strong 14 per cent jump in first-quarter net profit to $973 million on Tuesday.

"The striking thing about the first-quarter results for the local banks is that across all three banks, the non-performing loan (NPL) ratio has stabilised consistently and the specific provision has dropped by 30 to 50 per cent quarter on quarter," UOB Kay Hian research analyst Jonathan Koh told Reuters.

"They are also giving positive feedback that the worst of NPL formation from the oil and gas sector will be easing. This consistent pattern and feedback creates confidence that whatever damage that happened in the past due to exposure to the sector is behind us."

Elsewhere, Frasers Centrepoint was flat at $1.865, after posting a 42.2 per cent drop in net profit for the second quarter to $71.2 million.

Best World International rose 1.8 per cent or five cents to $2.84. The beauty product distributor on Tuesday said first-quarter earnings soared 63.1 per cent to $9.7 million.

Maybank Kim Eng maintained its "buy" call on the stock in a report, raising its target price by 51 per cent to $3.53, citing the firm's "good earnings delivery and improving track record in the high-growth China market".

Disa, formerly known as Equation Summit, was the day's most active counter. It shot up 6.9 per cent or 0.2 cent to 3.1 cents on 116.3 million shares done.

Most other markets in Asia rose. Tokyo climbed 0.31 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.44 per cent and Shanghai inched up 0.29 per cent.

But Jakarta slid 0.77 per cent.

Sentiment across the region was lifted thanks to a surge in oil prices, after data showed a fall in United States inventories.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to meet on May 25 to decide on production policy for the second half of 2017, and most analysts expect the group to extend cuts until at least the end of the year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'STI closes in on two-year high'. Print Edition | Subscribe