Bulls And Bears

STI slips ahead of ECB stimulus meeting

Blue chips falter as traders tread cautiously but penny stocks continue to rule the action

Singapore shares ended a smidgeon lower as traders turned cautious ahead of the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting that is expected to unleash new stimulus measures.

The benchmark Straits Times Index dipped 0.05 per cent or 1.31 points to 2,809.12, weighed down by Keppel Corp. The rig builder shed 1.7 per cent or 10 cents to $5.90, as oil prices pulled back from above US$41 a barrel on fears of oversupply.

Bank counters also put pressure on the STI. DBS Group slipped 0.5 per cent or eight cents to $15.15 while OCBC lost 0.3 per cent or three cents to $8.70. Other blue chips also felt some pain, with Global Logistic Properties sinking 1.6 per cent or three cents to $1.845, while Singtel shed 0.3 per cent or one cent to $3.76.

Investors are waiting on the ECB, which is expected to unveil additional easing measures to boost sagging eurozone inflation. Remisier Alvin Yong said: "We are hoping the ECB would expand its asset-buying programme to stocks and ETFs instead of just bonds."

But investors remained cautious after the bank disappointed markets in December with a smaller-than-expected package of easing measures.

Meanwhile, a bout of profit-taking sent oil-related penny play Ezra Holdings down 1.7 per cent or 0.2 cent to 11.8, with 509.5 million shares traded. The stock has been among the most actively traded this week on market talk of a possible takeover bid for its subsea services division EMAS Offshore.

An Ezra spokesman said yesterday that the firm "is not aware of any such plan".

Penny plays continued to rule the roost, with at least three counters queried yesterday by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) for unusual volume movements.

Catalist-listed IEV Holdings surged 78 per cent, or five cents, to 11.4 cents, with 166.1 million shares traded. The offshore and energy firm said it was not aware of any possible explanation for the trading activity. Queries were also lodged with oil and gas company Linc Energy, which plunged 36.6 per cent or 10.6 cents to 18.4 cents, and Chasen Holdings. The industrial relocation specialist skyrocketed nearly 70 per cent or 2.3 cents to 5.6 cents, with 61.7 million shares traded.

Other hotly traded pennies included Elektromotive, which was flat at 0.4 cent with 521.8 million shares traded, and Moya Asia, up 21.2 per cent or 0.7 cent to four cents, with 53.7 million shares traded.

Meanwhile, DBS Investment Research has maintained a fully valued call on StarHub and a hold call on M1 after MyRepublic proposed local data mobile plans for the registration of interest and feedback, even before the spectrum auction scheduled this third quarter. It plans to launch a 2GB plan at $8 a month for new customers and an unlimited data plan at $80 a month for customers seeking cheaper plans.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'STI slips ahead of ECB stimulus meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe