Bulls And Bears

STI inches upwards amid lacklustre trading

Regional markets see slight gains as crude oil prices rise, but no New Year cheer expected

Investors are taking whatever seasonal goodies they can find amid a downbeat, quiet end to the year.

Singapore followed regional markets into positive territory yesterday as crude oil prices rose, offering some cause for optimism.

Still, volumes were again lacklustre and analysts are not expecting much New Year cheer this week.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) put on 12.9 points or 0.45 per cent to 2,888.22, but only 710.9 million shares worth $431.2 million were traded across the market.

Remisier Desmond Leong said: "The volume is significantly lower than the one billion share average, so the gain is nothing to be excited about. Still, we have a good chance to test the 2,900 level, given the slow gains in recent days."

The mixed STI showing came as crude oil benchmark Brent futures stabilised at US$36.70 a barrel, up from US$36.62 on Monday after dipping from US$37.89 last Friday.

Asian markets rose as a result, shrugging off the 0.14 per cent drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average overnight. Shanghai gained 0.85 per cent yesterday and Hong Kong put on 0.36 per cent, while Tokyo rose 0.58 per cent.

At home, 22 blue-chip counters ended the day positive, with Hongkong Land Holdings leading the gainers to rise 11 US cents or 1.59 per cent to US$7.01.

Developers did well. UOL Group added eight cents or 1.3 per cent to $6.25, and City Developments gained eight cents or 1.04 per cent to $7.75. CapitaLand put on one cent or 0.3 per cent to close at $3.35.

The outlook for developers remains uncertain heading into next year, Mr Leong said. "The property market here has been depressed for the past one to two years, but I still don't see deregulation at least in the first half of next year, and it's hard to say when the Government will unwind the cooling measures."

Overall property prices have dropped about 8 per cent in the past two years, latest data provided by the Monetary Authority of Singapore showed, but government officials have repeatedly stated this year that it is premature to adjust the cooling measures, given that asset prices are still high compared with the pre-global financial crisis level.

Energy and offshore marine plays also face uncertainties. Sembcorp Marine was the top losing blue chip with a 2.5-cent or 1.4 per cent drop to $1.76. Keppel Corp also slid five cents or 0.76 per cent to $6.50.

Outside the STI, penny stocks saw some action. Marble block producer Terratech Group was still the most active stock, with 63.5 million shares changing hands. It dropped 0.6 cent or 9.84 per cent to 5.5 cents, showing signs that speculators are rotating out of the counter.

Ying Li International Real Estate was up 0.9 cent or 5.66 per cent to 16.8 cents on 16.6 million shares done as punters cheered a recent announcement that the first tower of its Beijing project Beijing Future has been fully taken up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'STI inches upwards amid lacklustre trading'. Print Edition | Subscribe