Bulls And Bears

Asian markets muted on sluggish growth

STI loses intra-day gains to close down on weak economic data

Singapore came out on the losing end on a day where regional markets drifted about looking for something to spark trading interest.

The Straits Times Index (STI) climbed in the morning session and appeared to stay strong during most of the afternoon but ultimately gave up all gains to close 0.06 per cent or 1.89 points lower at 3,198.39.

"Singapore's market performance remains lacklustre with many stocks unable to hold onto intra-day gains. This is against a backdrop of weak economic data," said Mr Joel Ng, head of Singapore research at KGI Securities.

PhillipCapital research head Paul Chew said: "We expect markets to trade sideways in the near term. Global growth is still sluggish and fixed-income markets are beginning to price in a US recession."

Turnover here was about one billion shares worth $1 billion with gainers outpacing losers 213 to 173.

Keppel Infrastructure Trust outstripped other counters in active trading, with 77.2 million units changing hands before it closed flat at 46.5 cents. It opened a preferential offering of units yesterday, allowing entitled investors to accept and apply for excess units until April 4. The offering is part of moves to raise $500.8 million to partially repay a loan taken to buy Ixom HoldCo, a water treatment chemicals distributor.

ThaiBev followed with 51.1 million shares traded, closing up 4.27 per cent to 85.5 cents. Morgan Stanley analysts remain overweight on the spirits maker, saying that investors may not fully appreciate the impact of recent acquisitions on its growth.

A few real estate investment trusts (Reits) with properties in the central business district edged higher following the announcement of an incentive scheme by the Urban Redevelopment Authority that will include higher gross plot ratios in certain areas to encourage the conversion of existing office developments to hotel and residential use.

KGI research analyst Geraldine Wong expects the move to act as a mid-to long-term growth catalyst for median Grade A office rents. KGI favours Reits with high exposure to local Grade A offices such as CapitaLand Commercial Trust (CCT).

Research analyst Tara Wong ofPhillipCapital said: "A plus for developers would be the opportunity to develop within this prime area, with only a handful of new launches being floated in District 2 in the last five years."

Suntec Reit, Mapletree Commercial Trust and Keppel Reit all advanced with small gains but CCT closed flat at $1.97 with 11.6 million units traded as did Frasers Commercial Trust at $1.43 on a volume of 13.2 million units.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'Asian markets muted on sluggish growth'. Print Edition | Subscribe