Local shares tumble over Singapore growth forecast, China's yuan devaluation

The benchmark Straits Times Index fell 43.6 points, after a surprise devaluation of the yuan and a slower growth target was set by Singapore regulators.
The benchmark Straits Times Index fell 43.6 points, after a surprise devaluation of the yuan and a slower growth target was set by Singapore regulators.PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - A surprise devaluation of the yuan coupled with a slower growth target from Singapore regulators sent local shares tumbling on Tuesday, with both blue chip and smaller stocks taking a hit.

The benchmark Straits Times Index fell 43.6 points, or 1.36 per cent, to 3,153.06 with about 1.9 billion shares worth S$1.7 billion changing hands.

Earlier, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said it had narrowed its growth forecast. It now expects the economy to grow between 2 and 2.5 per cent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 2 to 4 per cent.

Compounding the gloom was China's devaluation, which is aimed at making its exports cheaper. This, in turn, could hurt competitors in the region whose own exports will now become more expensive in comparison.

Mr Ray Farris, the global head of currency strategy in Singapore at Credit Suisse Group, told Bloomberg: "(China) built into the market an expectation that they were keeping the currency stable. Then all of a sudden they blinked."

This sends a signal to the markets that the next time Chinese exports slide, regulators will likely depreciate the yuan again, he added.

Tuesday's sudden move triggered a broad sell-off across the region. Tokyo lost 0.4 per cent, Seoul dropped 0.8 per cent, Taipei declined 0.9 per cent and Sydney retreated 0.7 per cent.

Mainland and Hong Kong shares, however, took a smaller hit - Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1 per cent while Shanghai edged down less than 0.1 per cent.

Noble Group shares surged over 8 per cent when the market opened amid news that the firm had hired a veteran dealmaker to review its operations, but the gloom over the yuan caught up with the stock, which ended the day in the red, down a cent to 57 cents.

Other commodity players also fell, with Olam International decreasing a cent to S$1.79, Wilmar International sliding 10 cents to S$3.07, Indofood Agri declining half a cent to 57.5 Singapore cents and Golden Agri Resources losing 1.5 cents to 32 Singapore cents.

yasminey@sph.com.sg