SINGAPORE - Asia markets moved higher for the second day - though on modest gains - as optimism over crude prices and the upcoming rate hikes in the United States continued to pick up.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) inched up 6.65 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 2,773.31. Elsewhere in the region, Shanghai rose 0.26 per cent, helped by buying in large cap stocks, while Hong Kong added 0.14 per cent.Tokyo put on 0.09 per cent, Sydney jumped 0.29 per cent, and Jakarta advanced 0.26 per cent.
The positive sentiment was likely carried over from Wall Street, up 0.82 per cent overnight thanks to signs of a stronger economy.
"We've seen some positive movement in the past two days, driven mostly by receding fears over higher interest rates in the US, given the stronger economic numbers," said Mr Kelvin Wong, chief technical strategist for Asia at City Index. "But this seems to be short-term speculation. All things being equal, things are still pretty negative in the market."
Mr Wong noted that Singapore, for instance, has been "underperforming" compared with its peers in the region, as it tracks China, where sentiment is still muted with few positive catalysts.
"And the rally in oil prices appears to be reaching an exhaustion target," he said.
Gains on the STI were capped by stocks such as Singapore Exchange, which slid nine cents or 1.2 per cent to S$7.58. The bouse operator confirmed on Thursday it has entered into exclusive talks to acquire the Baltic Exchange - a deal which could be priced at around US$100 million, according to observers.
On the other hand, oil and gas-related plays were among the biggest winners as crude prices surpassed the US$50 (S$68) a barrel mark.
Keppel Corporation rose 13 cents or 2.5 per cent to S$5.40. Sembcorp Marine grew two cents or 1.3 per cent to S$1.56, while parent firm Sembcorp Industries added three cents or 1.1 per cent to S$2.79.
Outside of the STI, offshore contractor Ezra Holdings jumped 0.2 cents or 2.9 per cent to seven cents in heavy trade, and Vallianz Holdings gained 0.1 cent or 2.6 per cent to 3.9 cents.
Some 974.8 million units worth S$775 million were traded across the bourse.