Asian traders sit and wait on US jobs report

STI slips into red as market awaits data that could offer clarity on US interest rate hike

Traders in Asia mostly stood on the sidelines yesterday, ahead of a US jobs data report that could offer more clarity on the timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike.

All eyes were back on the US, with China's volatile markets remaining closed until Wednesday for the National Day holidays.

Concerns about slowing growth globally in the new quarter kept risk appetite in check on Wall Street, which eased 0.08 per cent overnight after a choppy session.

As the Singapore market looked to the US for direction, the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) slipped back into the red, losing 8.7 points or 0.31 per cent to 2,793.15.

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea shaved 0.49 per cent, Malaysia shed 0.31 per cent and Indonesia dropped 1.11 per cent.

Hong Kong was an outlier with a 3.16 per cent gain as investors lapped up measures announced by China to shore up its sluggish property market and slowing economy, while Japan ticked up 0.02 per cent.

"The jobs report is definitely front and centre," Mr Michael Cuggino, a San Francisco-based fund manager at Pacific Heights Asset Management, told Bloomberg TV. "After that, people are going to quickly pivot to corporate earnings and the Fed again."

The STI was dragged down by the three local lenders, led by United Overseas Bank, which fell 32 cents or 1.7 per cent to $18.28. DBS Group Holdings slid 14 cents or 0.86 per cent to $16.13 while OCBC Bank lost three cents or 0.34 per cent to $8.77. Commodity trader Noble Group sank 1.5 cents or 3.7 per cent to 39.5 cents.

On the other side of the ledger, real estate group CapitaLand jumped 10 cents or 3.7 per cent to $2.81, while warehouse operator Global Logistic Properties added one cent or 0.49 per cent to $2.04.

New Silkroutes Group, the former Digiland International, was the day's most active counter, with 160.5 million shares changing hands. The stock doubled its price, adding 0.1 cents to 0.2 cents.

Real estate company SinarMas Land was the second-most heavily traded counter, on 142.1 million shares done, climbing half a cent or 0.89 per cent to 56.5 cents. SinarMas Land, controlled by Indonesia's Widjaja family, bought 141.1 million of its own shares in yet another round of buybacks. It has completed several tranches of share buybacks since Sept 18.

"To have a such a big buyback is a bit unusual," said remisier Desmond Leong. "Companies do buy back their own shares sometimes to support the price and to make it seem that the stock is performing better. But usually the reasons are not very clear... We'll just have to wait and see what comes out of this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Asian traders sit and wait on US jobs report'. Print Edition | Subscribe