Asian markets mixed as trade tensions persist

Hong Kong, S'pore bourses fall; analysts expect caution in region this week

The continued uncertainty over the rapidly escalating trade war between the United States and China - and Canada now - again left Asian markets mixed yesterday.

The Hong Kong and Singapore markets both fell while South Korea snapped a three-day losing streak.

Tokyo rose for the first time after six days of red ink.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) here dropped 13.47 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 3,120.92, on trade of 1.8 billion shares worth $905.8 million. Losers outnumbered gainers 281 to 135. The most actively traded stock was Rex International Holding, which gained 0.1 cent, or 1.19 per cent, to 8.5 cents with 122.2 million shares traded.

Among the STI stocks, Singtel lost three cents, or 1 per cent, to $3.10.

OCBC Bank retreated six cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $11 while United Overseas Bank dropped 15 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $26.

Gainers included Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which rose following news yesterday morning that it had acquired a portfolio of student accommodation buildings in Britain for about £180.5 million (S$321 million). SPH advanced six cents, or 2.2 per cent, to $2.79.

Sats and Singapore Airlines (SIA) both rose one cent, following a UOB Kay Hian report that recommended maintaining market weight in the aviation industry.

Sats, which is UOB Kay Hian's top pick in the sector, closed at $5.02 while SIA ended at $9.63.

Analyst K. Ajith noted that Sats' gateway services revenue and profitability are likely to grow on the back of improving ship calls at Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Inbound tourist arrivals by sea in the second quarter rose 24 per cent year-on-year and growth in this quarter could exceed that.

"Notwithstanding the temporary closure of the Kansai airport, Sats' Japanese catering arm TFK should also benefit from higher capacity addition by key customer Japan Airlines (JAL)," Mr Ajith wrote.

"JAL has added several international flights since May, all on wide-bodied aircraft. This should lead to higher meal volume and profitability at 51 per cent-owned TFK."

He also noted that second-quarter earnings at SIA may be hit by the Osaka floods and Hokkaido earthquake disrupting travel to Japan.

China's latest attempt to prevent a full-blown trade war with the US came in the form of an invitation to the heads of Wall Street's leading financial institutions to an event on Sept 16 to discuss relations, the Financial Times reported yesterday.

Analysts expect Asian markets to remain cautious and bearish this week as trade tensions persist.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2018, with the headline 'Asian markets mixed as trade tensions persist'. Print Edition | Subscribe