Singapore shares back in the red, STI closes 10 points down

A man passes the SGX building in Singapore's central business district, on March 24, 2016.
A man passes the SGX building in Singapore's central business district, on March 24, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares sank into negative territory again as the earnings of several blue chips missed forecasts and as more hawkish signals from United States Federal Reserve officials stoked rate hike concerns.

The key Straits Times Index lost 0.38 per cent or 10.48 points to 2,734.91. For the week, the STI managed to eke out a 0.15 per cent gain.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a voting member on the Fed's rate-setting committee, pointed to growing pressure within the US central bank to raise rates in the coming months. He said that the central bank risks stoking an asset bubble by delaying action for too long.

Weighing on the bourse are Singapore Airlines, Singtel and Wilmar International. "Analysts may have to revise down their full year estimates for local corporate earnings as several blue chips' earnings disappointed," Mr Lee Yu Sheng, a dealer with Maybank Kim Eng said.

SIA tumbled 5.4 per cent or 63 cents to S$11 a share, despite turning in better than expected full year 2016 earnings. "Its outlook is challenged by weaker economic conditions and as yields for cargo and passengers deteriorated," he said.

Transport giant ComfortDelGro Corp jumped 1.1 per cent or 3 cents to S$2.80, after it raked in S$73.4 million in net earnings for the first quarter ended March 31, 8.6 per cent more than previously.

The firm would have made more if not for foreign exchange losses arising from the weaker sterling pound, Australian dollar and Chinese yuan.

Among the most actively traded were Noble Group, which tumbled 9.7 per cent or 3.5 cents to 32.5 cents on 79.7 million shares traded.

Noble finalised US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion) in credit facilities on Thursday, a move that allows Asia's biggest commodity trader to refinance all of its debt maturing this year.

The company, which is trying to shore up investor confidence after Standard & Poor's and Moody's cut its ratings to junk, expects improved credit conditions to boost its business. "But fears that finance costs from the credit line may eat into their already weak profit margins hurt the stock," Mr Lee said.

DBS Group Research, which has a hold call on the commodity trader, said it will take time for the firm to restore confidence in its business model. "Despite Noble strengthening its balance sheet through the proposed disposal of its 49 per cent stake in Noble Agri, sentiment continues to be fragile, given the credit rating downgrades," DBS said.

Shares of fund manager ISR Capital continued on its meteoric surge, up 156 per cent or 5 cents to 8.2 cents, with 90.6 million shares traded yesterday. The stock had drawn a query on Thursday from the Singapore Exchange after it skyrocketed 256 per cent to 3.2 cents on volume of 45.6 million shares. It said the same day it did not know of reasons why its shares were in play.

Genting Singapore was among actively traded counters ahead of the release of its first quarter earnings yesterday. It closed 1.9 per cent or 1.5 cents lower at 78.5 cents, with 28 million shares traded.

gleong@sph.com.sg