A wait-and-see attitude again prevailed on the local market yesterday as Asian markets put in another mixed performance, with investors fretting over corporate earnings.
The Straits Times Index (STI) sank to as low as 2,873 before a late rally lifted it to 2,894.66 - still down 5.62 points or 0.19 per cent on the day. Turnover was slow with 835.8 million shares worth $881.3 million changing hands.
This followed the 0.15 per cent drop overnight in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, with investors taking profit ahead of the Federal Reserve's April meeting yesterday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Tokyo lost 0.49 per cent and Kuala Lumpur shed 1.28 per cent. Still, Shanghai put on 0.61 per cent and Hong Kong added 0.48 per cent, but both endured a choppy day.
"Investors will stay cautious in the coming days, waiting to figure out where interest rates and global growth are heading, and how these factors may affect corporates here," KGI Fraser Securities analyst He Yuxuan told The Straits Times.
A good part of that scrutiny will be on the local banks - set to announce first-quarter results soon.
"There are several areas of concerns over their performance in the first quarter and the coming months. With a weakening Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor) and the potential delay of a US rate hike, their net interest margin may deteriorate," Mr He said.
Three-month Sibor has dropped around 20 per cent since mid- March to 1.00359 per cent.
United Overseas Bank will announce its first-quarter results tomorrow, followed by OCBC on Friday, and DBS Group next Tuesday.
All three banks closed lower, with OCBC losing 22 cents or 2.37 per cent to $9.06 and United Overseas Bank down 13 cents or 0.67 per cent to $19.39. DBS dropped two cents or 0.13 per cent to $15.68.
They were among the 15 STI component stocks that ended in the red yesterday. Sembcorp Marine again led the laggards, closing down 7.5 cents or 4.29 per cent at $1.675 as investors warily awaited its first-quarter results today. Fellow offshore and marine play Keppel Corp shed five cents or 0.9 per cent to $5.50.
The top STI gainers included CapitaLand Mall Trust, which rose five cents or 2.39 per cent to $2.14, and Global Logistic Properties, up three cents or 1.57 per cent to $1.945.
Outside the STI, SMRT slid one cent or 0.67 per cent to $1.49, a day after major train service disruptions. This could trigger another fine by the Land Transport Authority, even as SMRT is still grappling with the aftermath of a track accident that killed two employees last month, OCBC analyst Eugene Chua said.
"Recall that SMRT was fined $5.4 million for the network-wide train disruption that lasted more than two hours on July 7 last year," Mr Chua cautioned, maintaining his hold call for the counter with a target price of $1.51.