It was a rough day for local equities with the Straits Times Index ending lower for the third straight session. But the damage was minor, with the index down 2.12 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 3,414.82.
One of the bigger hits yesterday came from Singtel, which shed 11 cents, or 2.93 per cent, to $3.64 on a turnover of 30 million shares. Itwas the telco's ex-dividend date; it will pay out 9.8 cents a share, inclusive of a special dividend, on Jan 10.
Overall turnover came in at 1.52 billion shares worth $1.03 billion with gainers outnumbering losers 224 to 198. The full day's performance fell short of the morning's optimism, when analysts like IG Asia market strategist Pan Jingyi said the tax reform push and record closes in the United States on Friday could be "the wind beneath the wings for a Monday rally in Asia".
Trading opened just after Singapore's November export figures were released with 9.1 per cent year-on-year growth, well above economist estimates of 5.5 per cent i na Reuters poll. The news gave the STI a boost, moving the needle up to 3,426.62 on opening. But that was before the caffeine wore off. The index sank to 3,404.73 before noon, then inched its way back up.
CMC Markets Singapore analyst Margaret Yang wrote in a morning note that the STI "is likely to consolidate around 3,400 to 3,470... until fresh catalysts kick in". She reiterated that investors cannot count on banking stocks' dividend yield yet as "current valuation is rich".
United Overseas Bank ended the day lower, losing three cents to $26.02. OCBC Bank was up four cents at $12.34; DBS added 15 cents to $24.73. But the star of the show was Rowsley, which drove up activity after lunch. The investment company had said in the morning it will take the privately held Thomson Medical business off tycoon Peter Lim's hands for $1.6 billion, paid mostly in stock.
More than 305.8 million Rowsley shares were traded, with the counter finishing up by 2.5 cents, or 22.5 per cent, at 13.6 cents.
Another hot stock was beleaguered commodities trader Noble Group, which rose 2.5 cents, or 10.4 per cent, to 26.5 cents on a turnover of 28.7 million shares. Its chairman said last Friday that it is in talks to restructure its debt to avoid ending up in an insolvency process.
Elsewhere, Asian markets were more or less buoyed by the rally in US stocks. The chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute told Bloomberg that the likelihood of a tax cut for businesses in the US is allowing investors to anticipate a rise in corporate earnings.
Hong Kong finished up 0.7 per cent. Tokyo added 1.55 per cent and Shanghai, 0.05 per cent, while Seoul dipped 0.01 per cent.