STI sees off 2016 on a low note

SGX Centre 1 at Shenton Way Road in the Raffles Place District.
SGX Centre 1 at Shenton Way Road in the Raffles Place District.PHOTO: ST FILE

Thin trading due to holiday lull; volatile year could set tone for 2017, at least in near term

The Singapore market ended the year with a marginal drop yesterday to see off 2016 on a low note.

As is typical in the holiday season lull, trading was thin with only 1.02 billion shares worth $785.5 million changing hands.

The final score - the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) closed at 2,880.76, down 8.39 points, or 0.29 per cent - was a 0.07 per cent drop from the 2,882.73 close recorded on Dec 31 last year.

The STI's performance was somewhat disappointing, compared with the almost 4 per cent full-year gain in the MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index - an improvement over its losses in the previous two years.

But 2016 was a particularly volatile 12 months filled with shock events, perhaps setting the tone for another stretch of uncertainty, at least in the early part of next year.

And with the next United States rate hike still months away, economic indicators, such as next week's non-farm payroll data in the US, will dictate market movements.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi said: "Although the market is currently expecting December's non-farm payrolls to come in largely unchanged at 175,000 from 178,000 previously, (the data) is hardly ever a non-event.

"Surprises could still whack prices in either direction and could reignite further US dollar strength."

The greenback's gains have slowed in recent days and is now sitting at around 1.45 against the Singdollar. It rose around 2 per cent against the Singdollar this year, thanks to a fourth-quarter surge.

The strength of the US dollar may be bad news as it could attract further capital outflow from Asian assets, but companies with greater revenue exposure to the currency will be viewed positively.

These include Singapore Technologies Engineering. It put on one cent, or 0.31 per cent, to $3.23 yesterday - one of the 11 STI stocks that ended in the black.

Hongkong Land Holdings led the gainers, rising eight US cents, or 1.28 per cent, to US$6.33, while Golden Agri-Resources rose half a cent, or 1.18 per cent, to 43 cents.

Meanwhile, crude oil benchmark Brent futures stood firm at around US$57 a barrel, still far below the pre-crash levels of above US$110, but the rebound was welcome.

Despite the encouraging backdrop, Keppel Corp was among the 17 STI losers yesterday, closing five cents down, or 0.86 per cent, at $5.79. Sembcorp Marine, which is not on the STI, slipped one cent, or 0.72 per cent, to $1.38.

The price of gold, another key market data to watch, was around US$1,160 per ounce yesterday, marking a roughly 9 per cent full-year gain despite the fourth-quarter sell-off. But investor sentiment over Singapore-listed gold companies was clearly mixed. While CNMC Goldmine rose 1.5 cents, or 3.57 per cent, to 43.5 cents, Wilton Resources dropped 0.3 cent, or 4.35 per cent, to 6.6 cents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'STI sees off 2016 on a low note '. Print Edition | Subscribe