Mixed day at regional bourses, STI closes 17 points up

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares closed on a positive note on a mixed day for the region, but the market here is still stuck in its consolidation amid the murky economic outlook and wobbly oil prices.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) had a strong morning session, rising to 2,845 before noon. But the afternoon trading was less certain, and the index only managed to close up 16.86 points or 0.6 per cent at 2,835.35.

The local market has gone through a stretch of ups and downs between 2,820 and 2,880 since mid-March, when the STI recovered to the levels before the January crash. Markets watchers expect more consolidation to set in in the near term.

"We maintain our view that STI's rally has stalled at 2910, and the short-term trend has turned sideways in the weeks ahead," DBS analyst Yeo Kee Yan said, calling the next support level at 2,785 and a resistance at 2,920.

The uneven session on Monday followed the 0.61 per cent rise to Dow Jones Industrial Average last Friday, as Wall Street turned confident on the United States corporate earnings outlook after the better-than-expected jobs and manufacturing data.

In Asia, the signs of recovery were less uniform. While China's manufacturing purchasing managers' index showed a surprise expansion in March, an equivalent survey in Japan showed a softer sentiment.

Bank of Singapore chief economist Richard Jerram believes China's issues still persist at a fundamental level.

"Credit (in China) is still expanding at an excessive pace, which implies that the current growth model is not sustainable," he said in a note.

"(Growth) needs to be derived from domestic productivity gains, rather than endless credit expansion."

Against this backdrop, Tokyo dropped 0.25 per cent, and Sydney pared 0.08 per cent. Markets in Hong Kong and China were closed for holiday.

Back in Singapore, 20 of the 30 STI constituents rose, with Singapore Telecommunications leading the gainers with a five cents or 1.33 per cent increase to S$3.8.

whwong@sph.com.sg