Bulls And Bears

Asian markets cheered by positive US news

STI takes cue from Wall St and extends gains for third straight day ahead of festive holiday

Asian stock markets mostly gained ground yesterday, ahead of the long Christmas holiday, following a positive United States lead.

Wall Street rose 0.96 per cent overnight, lifted by gains in commodity shares, while data showed an uptake in consumer spending.

Taking its cue from the US, the Straits Times Index extended its gains for a third straight day, climbing 10.68 points or 0.37 per cent to 2,863.65 in a belated festive rally.

Elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong saw its best day in two weeks with a 1 per cent increase, bolstered by oil giants PetroChina, CNOOC and Sinopec on the back of a rebound in oil prices. Seoul put on 0.3 per cent, Jakarta inched up 0.1 per cent and Sydney added 0.5 per cent.

Shanghai was an outlier as it erased gains in the final hour of trading, snapping a two-day rally. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

"Consumer spending looks like it's helping the US economy," Mr James Lindsay, an Auckland-based fund manager at Nikko Asset Management Co that oversees US$160 billion (S$225 billion), told Bloomberg. "The key things are still what happens with China, the flow-on effects into commodities and what the Fed does."

At home, the blue-chip index was bolstered by the three local banks.

DBS Group Holdings gained 19 cents or 1.2 per cent to $16.54; OCBC Bank advanced five cents or 0.6 per cent to $8.77; and United Overseas Bank edged up 15 cents or 0.8 per cent to $19.39.

Commodity trader Noble Group was among top performers, rising two cents or 4.5 per cent to 46 cents. The counter was the day's most active, with 81.6 million units traded.

The firm yesterday said it signed its first liquefied natural gas sales contract in Asia-Pacific as it shifts its focus from agricultural commodity trading to energy. Earlier, it sold the remaining 49 per cent stake in its agribusiness, Noble Agri, to China's state-owned Cofco International for US$750 million in order to cut debt.

"The disposal helps the struggling company to raise the cash needed to avert a credit downgrade to junk status from S&P and Moody's, and also to get rid of a liability relating to the subsidiary from Noble's accounts," noted IG market strategist Bernard Aw.

Energy-related firms got a shot of confidence from the uptick in oil prices, with benchmark Brent staging a slight recovery to US$36.51 a barrel.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group grew three cents or 2.8 per cent to $1.09, while rigbuilding giant Keppel Corporation was up four cents or 0.6 per cent to $6.50.

The day's biggest laggards included casino operator Genting Singapore, down half a cent or 0.6 per cent to 76.5 cents. Thai Beverage slid one cent or 1.5 per cent to 67.5 cents.

Trading was light, with 1.3 million shares worth $709.1 million changing hands. The local stock market will be closed until Monday after a half-day session today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Asian markets cheered by positive US news'. Print Edition | Subscribe