Bulls And Bears

Asian markets fall amid fresh trade war fears

Reports of possible US curbs on Chinese tech investments add to uncertainties

Shares retreated yesterday on reports that the United States might clamp down on Chinese investments in technology, re-igniting fears of more trade conflict.

The concerns sent the benchmark Straits Times Index back into the red, down 56.57 points, or 1.64 per cent, to 3,382.78.

UOB noted that "market sentiment is expected to be weighed down" by such curbs, and traders proved the prediction right with losers thumping gainers 318 to 115 - or roughly 11 down for every four up.

IG Asia market strategist Pan Jingyi noted that what appears to be sending prices lower on Wall Street "still resembles pure fear amid the uncertainties, which alongside the positive growth momentum, may keep prices in this volatile state".

Lead weights on the index here included Singtel, which shed five cents to $3.34.

Casino operator Genting Singapore slid again, falling two cents to $1.06, with 42.48 million shares changing hands.

Singapore Post lost five cents to $1.35, despite a PhillipCapital note that pegged market sentiment on the counter as "bullish".

Developer Oxley Holdings' $95 million purchase of freehold Ampas Apartments did not please investors, with the stock down 1.5 cents to 49.5 cents.

E-commerce distributor Y Ventures Group was up 10 cents, or 18.69 per cent, to 63.5 cents on the heels of DBS Group Research initiating coverage with a "buy" call. Its analysts had set a target price of 77 cents, adding: "Our bear-case valuation of 47 cents suggests an attractive risk-reward ratio at current levels."

Property player Lian Beng Group was lifted by news that its SLB Development unit is headed for a public offering on the Catalist board. It added 1.5 cents to 67 cents.

But Sembcorp Marine's capricious counter slipped three cents to $2.18. It has clinched a newbuild vessel contract from TechnipFMC.

Debutant Sasseur Reit ended at 80.5 cents on its first day, or 0.63 per cent above its offer price of 80 cents a unit.

There was bloodshed across the region. Both the Nikkei 225 and Kospi lost 1.34 per cent, while Shanghai was down by 1.4 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 2.5 per cent to a three-week low.

"Asian markets have witnessed the most significant falls so far," Schroders noted. "Large exporters play a significant part in the Japanese economy and there are concerns that they could be caught up in any US-China trade war."

S&P Global Ratings has also raised the risk level of trade interruption and geopolitical tensions to "high" from "elevated".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Asian markets fall amid fresh trade war fears'. Print Edition | Subscribe