Singapore shares ease to 4-week low; Noble leads decline

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore shares declined to their lowest in four weeks on Wednesday, tracking global markets as uncertainty over the US Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus resurfaced, with commodities trader Noble Group leading the fall.

Shares in Noble dropped 6 per cent to a one-week low of $1.015, on course for their biggest daily decline in a year, after the company posted a 70 per cent fall in third-quarter net profit.

The commodities company was the worst performer on the benchmark Straits Times Index and among the top most traded stock by value on Wednesday. Some 43.5 million shares were traded, about 1.5 times its average 30-day full-day volume.

"We believe that Noble is turning the corner slowly, but surely," said CIMB analysts in a research note.

"However, challenges such as infrastructural bottlenecks in Brazil, oilseed crushing overcapacity in China and the longer-than-expected gestation of MMO (Metals, Minerals and Ores) could blunt recovery."

Noble shares gained as much as 39 per cent from a trough in August to a five-month high of $1.095 hit in late October. The price rally has factored in expectations of a slow recovery, CIMB said, setting the stock's target price at $1.04.

The benchmark Straits Times Index edged down 0.4 per cent to a one-month low at 3,167.64 points by midday.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.3 per cent as investors speculated on a possible stimulus reduction end of this year while the Chinese Communist Party failed to offer concrete details on its reform agenda.

Among other stocks, Golden Agri dropped as much as 1.8 per cent to a two-week low of $0.555, after the company posted a 33 per cent drop in third-quarter net profit due to weaker selling prices, higher plantation costs and inventories.

Singapore Airlines jumped as much as 1.6 per cent to $10.41, on course for its biggest daily gain in a week. The company reported a 23 per cent rise in second-quarter operating profit but warned of further pressure on yields in a cut-rate pricing environment.