STI bucks trend, ends higher, as Fed minutes pulls Asian markets down

The STI rose 0.49 per cent to close at 3,137.57 on Feb 23, 2017.
The STI rose 0.49 per cent to close at 3,137.57 on Feb 23, 2017. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Local shares defied the regional trend to end higher on Thursday, with the benchmark Straits Times Index gaining 0.49 per cent.

Singapore shares rose 15.37 points to close at 3,137.57, even as other Asian markets sagged.

Minutes from the United States Federal Reserve's latest meeting showed that the central bank is confident it can raise interest rates gradually, as it does not expect inflation to spike suddenly.

This was taken by some market punters as a lack of clear guidance, which weighed on sentiment across the region.

Hong Kong shed 0.4 per cent, Shanghai slipped 0.3 per cent and Sydney fell 0.4 per cent, while Tokyo ended flat.

Mr Greg McKenna, the chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a note that there appears to be some scepticism of the likely effectiveness of President Donald Trump's economic policies. He added that there investors are increasingly expecting a market correction, after weeks of rallying in the wake of Mr Trump's election.

"When folks are starting to think and talk like this, it tells me that there could be a subtle shift in market thinking," he wrote.

Noble Group, which has been actively traded in recent days, was agian a hot stock at home rising 1.5 cents to 2.7 cents. Genting Singapore was another top active, gaining five cents to S$1.03.

Sembcorp Marine climbed 28 cents to S$1.815, after it recorded a massive earnings turnaround in the fourth quarter. The rig-builder posted a net profit of S$34.3 million for the three months ending Dec 31 last year - a stark contrast to the net loss of S$536.9 million in the same period a year earlier.

Far East Hospitality Trust rose half a cent to 60 cents, after posting on Wednesday a fourth-quarter income available for distribution of S$20.2 million, down 2.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.

CIMB Research analyst Yeo Zhi Bin said in a note that the results "reaffirm our view that the green shoots of recovery for the hospitality sub-sector will only appear in 2018", and maintained his "hold" call on the trust.

Ezion Holdings added 3.5 cents to 39.5 cents. It had reported a net loss of a USS$66.6 million (SS$94.17 million) for the fourth quarter, due to continuing weakness in the oil and gas sector.

Still, OCBC Investment Research analyst Low Pei Han maintained her "buy" call on the stock, saying that its current low valuation "has largely priced in the negatives".

yasminey@sph.com.sg