STI slips 14 points at close as traders play safe on worries over global economy

SINGAPORE - Local equities saw a limp start to the week on Monday (Nov 23), as traders continued to tread with caution on worries over the global economy.

The benchmark Straits Times Index slipped 14.42 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 2,903.49. Trade volume across the bourse totalled 1.01 billion units worth a lacklustre SS$685.1 million. This was even as Wall Street added 0.51 per cent last Friday, lifted by a surge in Nike stocks.

Markets elsewhere in the region offered little direction as investors braced themselves for the upcoming interest rate hike in the United States, which is slated to take place next month.

Shanghai slid 0.56 per cent, while Hong Kong dipped 0.39 per cent. Japan's financial markets were closed for a public holiday.

"This is not a really welcoming environment for risk taking," Mr Tim Condon, head of Asia research at ING Groep NV in Singapore, told Bloomberg.

"Liquidity is beginning to dry up as people are waiting for what happens in December with the Fed. Worries about China persist."

The drop in oil prices, which dragged Brent crude down about 2 per cent to US$43.78 a barrel as at 7.45pm on Monday (Nov 23), did little to lift sentiment as well.

At home, losses were led by the three local lenders, with United Overseas Bank falling 25 cents or 1.25 per cent to S$19.77.

OCBC Bank shed 11 cents or 1.23 per cent S$8.82, while DBS Group Holdings was down 12 cents or 0.71 per cent to S$16.78.

Commodity trader Noble Group lost half a cent or 1.21 per cent to 41 cents, reversing its earlier gains during the day. Telco Singtel sank four cents or 1.03 per cent to S$3.85.

Shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) was one of the few bright spots for the day, jumping 4.5 per cent or five cents to S$1.17.

This was after the company confirmed over the weekend that that it is in exclusive talks with French shipping giant CMA CGM on a potential sale.

OCBC Investment Research said in a note that there is a23 per cent upside to NOL's book value of about S$1.38, based on the closing price of S$1.12 last Friday.

Genting Singapore also fared well, rising one cent or 1.35 per cent to 75 cents, while shipbuilder Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings gained 1.5 cents or 1.36 per cent to S$1.115.

Upstream oil and gas company KrisEnergy grew 1.5 cents or 4.92 per cent to 32 cents, after announcing it has received government approval of the Production Area Application for an area containing the Rossukon oil discovery in the Gulf of Thailand.

Over at the Catalist board, new entrant Astaka Holdings closed at 24 cents, lower than its opening price of 24.5 cents.

The listing of the Malaysia-based property developer, which focuses on high-end projects in Iskandar, brings the total market capitalisation of the 169 companies listed on the board to S$10 billion.

Elektromotive Group was the day's most active stock, with 70 million shares changing hands. It was flat at 0.4 cents.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg