Asian markets tumble over US political turmoil; Singapore shares slide

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) shed 3.61 points to 3,224.10 as market sentiments across Asia were down over the political storm involving US President Donald Trump and sacked former FBI director James Comey.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) shed 3.61 points to 3,224.10 as market sentiments across Asia were down over the political storm involving US President Donald Trump and sacked former FBI director James Comey.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares slid further on Wednesday (May 17) as markets in Asia tumbled on worries over political issues in the United States.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) shed 3.61 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 3,224.10. A total of 1.35 billion shares worth $1.23 billion exchanged hands across the bourse.

Data that showed non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) here dipped 0.7 per cent in April did little to shore up sentiment as well.

"The first decline in Nodx in four months could mean further jitters after the heavy sell-off on Tuesday," IG market strategist Jingyi Pan said in a note.

Tokyo, which fell 0.53 per cent, was among those that saw the biggest losses in the region. Shanghai dropped 0.27 per cent, Hong Kong pared 0.17 per cent, while Sydney sank 1.1 per cent.

Traders appear to be spooked by the latest developments surrounding the saga between US President Donald Trump and former FBI director James Comey - namely reports that Mr Trump had asked Mr Comey to end a probe into his former national security adviser.

"The Trump issue seems to come in waves, and now we have another wave," Mr Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation at SEB Investments, told Reuters.

Of the 30 STI constituents, 16 finished weaker, nine rose, and five remained unchanged.

The index was weighed down by blue chips such as SIA Engineering, which sank 1.5 per cent or six cents to S$3.89.

Two of the local banks also fared poorly: OCBC Bank lost 1.1 per cent or 12 cents to S$10.42 while United Overseas Bank slid 0.5 per cent or 11 cents to S$23.14.

DBS Group Holdings, on the other hand, climbed 0.7 per cent or 15 cents to S$20.80.

Other gainers included Singapore Airlines, which rose 2.4 per cent or 25 cents to S$10.74, and Singtel, up 0.5 per cent or two cents to S$3.75.

Elsewhere, Noble Group notched up gains for the second straight day after having taken a massive hit in the past week, jumping 5.3 per cent or 3.5 cents to 69.5 cents in heavy trade.