China GDP data spurs regional markets, STI closes 45 points up

SINGAPORE - Asian stock markets made a comeback on Tuesday, as the spotlight turned from tumbling oil prices back to China.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) was not left out of the party, rising 45.47 points, or 1.75 per cent, to 2,638.47, marking its biggest gain since November.

The rally across the region was led by Chinese shares, with Shanghai jumping 3.2 per cent, as traders raised their bets on stimulus measures after China released data that showed a 6.9 per cent economic growth last year.

The annual figure, which reflects the nation's slowest pace of growth in 25 years, confirmed fears that the world's second largest economy is losing steam. But it also spurred speculation that the government will move to shore up the faltering economy, said analysts.

Investors need to ask "what is the next policy action in terms of stimulus from the Chinese", Mr Didier Duret, chief investment officer at ABN Amro Private Banking, told Bloomberg TV in Hong Kong. "It will probably come into infrastructure - railways, telecoms and air space infrastructure. That's the area that should benefit."

Elsewhere, Hong Kong rose 2.1 per cent, Tokyo inched up 0.6 per cent, and Sydney grew 0.9 per cent. Wall Street was shut for a national holiday on Monday.

Most blue chips in Singapore put up a good showing, with the banks leading the upturn on the STI.

DBS Group Holdings rose 25 cents or 1.8 per cent to S$14.48, OCBC Bank put on 14 cents or 1.8 per cent to S$7.92, and United Overseas Bank gained 42 cents or 2.5 per cent to S$17.52.

Oil and gas-related plays gained solid footing as well, as prices of global benchmark Brent climbed back up slightly to around US$29 a barrel, after sliding below US$28 on Monday.

Sembcorp Marine surged 19 cents or 8.1 per cent to S$2.54, while Keppel Corporation jumped 33 cents or 6.8 per cent to S$5.18. Both counters have been hammered in the wake of weakening oil prices, now down to 12-year lows.

Telcos, on the other hand, chalked up losses as competition in the industry continues to intensify.

The bourse recorded a turnover of 1.24 billion units worth $1.28 billion, one of the highest so far this year.