Bulls And Bears

Straits Times Index dips for 5th straight session

Equities hurt by sell-off in commodity sector

Asian markets were again swamped in a sea of red yesterday, as investors bailed out of the increasingly fragile commodity sector amid fresh fears over China's slowdown.

Singapore equities took a hit as well, with the benchmark Straits Times Index dipping for the fifth straight session - by 3.98 points or 0.14 per cent to 2,787.94.

But this was a significant bounce back from an intraday low of 2,740.

Elsewhere, Japan tumbled 4.05 per cent, as Shanghai slid 2.02 per cent. Hong Kong, which resumed trading following a public holiday on Monday, tanked 2.97 per cent to a two-year low.

The downbeat sentiment in the region mirrored that in Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 1.92 per cent overnight, dampened by numbers showing weak industrial profits in China.

Stocks in the United States had received little support from the Federal Reserve's Sept 17 decision to hold off hiking interest rates. "Regardless of what the Fed does, we're being set up for more volatility in the fourth quarter," Mr Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management in New York, told Reuters. "You have increasing fears about a global slowdown and the economic reports out of China have only increased those fears."

At home, the losses were led by local commodity stocks, which suffered huge collateral damage following the pummelling of mining and commodity trading giant Glencore.

Commodity trader Noble Group came off the worst among the blue chips, sinking as much as 15 per cent during the day. The stock, targeted in recent times by short-sellers over its accounting practices, dived 4.5 cents or 10.1 per cent to 40 cents - its lowest level since 2006. It was the most heavily traded stock, with about 122 million shares changing hands.

Wilmar International, the world's largest oil palm firm, slid eight cents or 3.08 per cent to $2.52 - a level last seen during the global financial crisis in 2009.

Oil and gas plays took a hit as well, with rigbuilder Keppel Corporation losing one cent or 0.15 per cent to $6.75 although Sembcorp Marine was unscathed, rising one cent or 0.44 per cent to $2.26.

The immediate spark was Glencore, whose shares plunged almost 30 per cent to a record low in London on Monday on concerns over the firm's debt amid an ongoing collapse in global metal prices. Its Hong Kong-listed shares followed suit yesterday, crashing 29.3 per cent.

IG market strategist Bernard Aw told The Straits Times: "What happened with Glencore was certainly a trigger for these commodity stocks... It's a contagion effect - investors are lumping them together with the problems in Glencore and more broadly, the mining stocks.

"It might not make sense if you look at some of the valuations for these counters, but for investors, it's about paring down their position in the companies or exiting altogether."

He said commodity counters will likely remain "under a lot of pressure as long as the global economic outlook is looking sluggish".

Across the market, some 1.23 billion shares worth $1.28 billion were traded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Straits Times Index dips for 5th straight session'. Print Edition | Subscribe