Japan leads positive sentiment in Asian markets, STI closes 1 point higher

A pedestrian stands in front of a quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, on May 13, 2016.
A pedestrian stands in front of a quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, on May 13, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Asian markets mostly rose on modest gains on Monday (May 16), led by Japan, in a positive start to the new week.

The Straits Times Index (STI) reversed losses in morning trade to climb 1.15 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 2,736.06.

Sentiment in the region received a much-needed booster following news that Japan's government may postpone a planned sales tax rise, which saw Tokyo add 0.3 per cent. This also helped offset disappointing April economic data from China over the weekend.

Shanghai and Hong Kong each grew 0.8 per cent, Sydney rose 0.6 per cent and Seoul inched up 0.1 per cent.

The region-wide rally came even though Wall Street fell 1 per cent last Friday, as a jump in retail sales data revived speculation the Federal Reserve may lift rates as early as June.

But analysts are unconvinced the gains will continue. "It's more of a short-term, minor rebound since the markets have been oversold," Mr Kelvin Wong, chief technical strategist for Asia at City Index, told The Straits Times.

"Stronger economic fundamentals are still lacking. If you look at China, it's starting to show weak numbers. Earnings in the United States are also not much of a catalyst for markets to drive higher."

Mr Wong added Japan's gross domestic product, due on Wednesday, will be watched closely. It is expected to show the country narrowly avoided falling into a recession in the first quarter.

At home, Thai Beverage Public Company was among the biggest blue chip winners, jumping 8 cents or 10.7 per cent to 83 Singapore cents. The group on Friday reported a strong set of first-quarter results, with net profit rising 30 per cent to 8.56 billion Thai baht.

ST Engineering also did well, rising 8 cents or 2.6 per cent to S$3.16.

Logistics firm CWT grew 2 cents or 0.9 per cent to S$2.14, after confirming its controlling shareholders have signed an exclusivity agreement to negotiate a sale of its shares to China conglomerate HNA Group, which could trigger a general offer for CWT.

A total of 2.61 billion shares worth S$848.1 million were traded across the bourse.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg