Asian investors rush for exits amid Brexit fears

Of the 30 STI constituent stocks, 24 end in the red - led by Golden Agri-Resources

Investors across Asia rushed for the exits yesterday amid heightened fears that Britain will vote to leave the European Union next week.

Polls over the weekend showed more support for Brexit than for remaining in the bloc. The referendum will be on June 23.

This pushed Asia's already jittery markets into more sell-offs; Shanghai fell 3.21 per cent and Hong Kong lost 2.52 per cent, despite China's industrial production rising 6 per cent year on year in May and retail sales improving by 10 per cent.

Tokyo lost 3.51 per cent as uncertainties over a Bank of Japan meeting this week sent investors to the sidelines.

Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) closed down for the third straight session, dropping 37.54 points or 1.33 per cent to 2,785.43.

Among the 30 STI constituent stocks, 24 ended in the red, led by Golden Agri-Resources, which shed 1.5 cents or 3.95 per cent to 36.5 cents. Keppel Corp also took a beating, closing down 19 cents or 3.4 per cent at $5.40, and Sembcorp Marine dipped 4.5 cents or 2.71 per cent to $1.615.

Market sentiment was further weakened by oil prices, with Brent futures inching down towards US$50 a barrel.

CapitaLand slipped four cents or 1.32 per cent to $2.99. But OCBC analyst Eli Lee maintained his buy call, saying the developer's recent announcement of co-working space Collective Works Capital Tower was "forward-looking" in a difficult office rental market.

"We also note that CapitaLand has taken advantage of the recent share price weakness to conduct company share buybacks in the open market. We see these buybacks to be an accretive use of capital, particularly now that CapitaLand sits on significant dry powder of $3.9 billion in cash and equivalents," Mr Lee added.

Only five blue chips rose yesterday - Singapore Technologies Engineering, Sats, Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust, StarHub and Singapore Airlines (SIA).

ST Engineering put on seven cents or 2.24 per cent to $3.20.

Airline catering firm Sats gained seven cents or 1.73 per cent to $4.12; SIA rose one cent to $10.58.

The International Air Transport Association noted in a recent report that the air travel industry in Singapore could more than double in 20 years and increase its contribution to the local economy to US$65 billion (S$88 billion).

Outside the STI, Ezra Holdings lost 0.7 cent or 7.78 per cent to 8.3 cents, on 290.49 million shares traded - the most active counter.

The offshore and marine firm's stock was dumped after news that it is selling a 25 per cent stake in joint venture Emas Chiyoda Subsea deepened concerns over how it is faring in the stagnant sector.

Film company mm2 Asia closed down 2.5 cents or 3.57 per cent at 67.5 cents.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline Asian investors rush for exits amid Brexit fears. Subscribe