Bulls And Bears

Asian markets mixed as fresh tariffs kick in

STI among hardest hit; positive Chinese factory data lifts some bourses

Asian markets closed mixed yesterday as investors grappled with the latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs between the United States and China, and surprisingly positive Chinese factory data from a private survey.

Singapore was among the hardest hit, and the Straits Times Index posted a 23.56 point, or 0.76 per cent, drop to close at 3,082.96. Australia, Japan and Hong Kong all closed about 0.4 per cent lower.

Said FXTM chief market strategist Hussein Sayed: "Even though the trade dispute seemed to be de-escalating last week, helping some risk assets recover, many investors fear that the trade conflict is too far from being entirely resolved.

"Whether you're an equity, fixed income, commodity or currency trader, the trade war remains the most significant influence on all these asset classes."

Meanwhile, China was among the winners as investors focused more on promising corporate earnings and the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI). The private survey indicated an expansion in Chinese manufacturing activity last month, contrasting with the official data that showed a contraction.

Noting that the survey focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises while the official PMI polls larger businesses and state-owned enterprises, UOB economist Ho Woei Chen said: "This could suggest that targeted policy measures to support the smaller private businesses, including to increase credit availability, have yielded some positive results."

Other markets that closed higher were New Zealand and South Korea.

On the Singapore bourse, about 828.6 million securities worth $641.7 million changed hands. Losers outnumbered gainers 228 to 149.

Rex International Holding led active trading, closing up 3.9 per cent to eight cents. It announced yesterday morning that its subsidiary, Lime Petroleum, will take part in oil drilling in the Norwegian Sea by acquiring 30 per cent interests in two licences related to an exploration well that is being drilled.

Sembcorp Marine picked up two cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $1.16 on news that it had snagged six new projects worth $400 million. It will provide engineering solutions for offshore gas and wind farm developments, and cruise ship upgrades.

BreadTalk announced it is buying foodcourt operator Food Junction for $80 million, in yet another consolidation in the food and beverage industry. Its shares closed down 2.2 per cent to 66.5 cents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'Asian markets mixed as fresh tariffs kick in'. Print Edition | Subscribe