Bulls And Bears

Banks lift STI for second day in a row

Lenders' performance leads to big gains for blue-chip index; wider market less impressive

The three Singapore banks powered local equities to a second day of hefty gains - but the wider market was less robust.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) added 26.7 points, or 0.83 per cent, to 3,237.81. A total of 1.48 billion shares worth $1.22 billion changed hands across the bourse.

DBS retail market strategist Yeo Kee Yan said the blue-chip index performed very well in the last two days, thanks to the Singapore lenders.

"But if you noticed, there were actually more counters in the red than in the black. So the market breadth is still not there," Mr Yeo told The Straits Times. Ten of the 30 index constituents clocked gains yesterday, while 16 fell and four were flat.

He added that further upside for the banks, and the STI, could be capped in the near term. "The banks, typically the early sector recovery leaders, have already been moving upwards for months. They can't continue going higher and higher if the rest of the market doesn't follow. At some point, they will have to wait for the others to catch up."

DBS Group Holdings, which on Tuesday announced that first-quarter net profit rose 1 per cent to a record $1.21 billion, led the rally among banks as it shot up 4.9 per cent or 97 cents to $20.83.

United Overseas Bank advanced 1.9 per cent or 44 cents to $23.24, while OCBC Bank, the last to report earnings on Tuesday next week, rose 2 per cent or 20 cents to $10.18.

The biggest laggards included transport group ComfortDelGro, which sank 2.2 per cent or six cents to $2.71, and Thai Beverage, down 1.1 per cent or one cent to 91 cents.

Commodity trader Noble Group was the most heavily traded stock, dropping 4.7 per cent or 0.6 cent to 12.3 cents on 341.2 million shares done.

Sinostar PEC Holdings surged 11.1 per cent or 2.5 cents to 25 cents, after it posted on Tuesday a net profit of 26.4 million yuan (S$5.3 million) for the first quarter, more than double the 11.5 million yuan a year ago.

Elsewhere in Asia, markets were mixed, while Tokyo and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.

Shanghai eased 0.27 per cent as investors remained cautious about China's tougher regulations and a shift towards tighter policy, while Sydney dropped 0.98 per cent.

Mr Hung Tran, executive managing director at the Institute of International Finance, noted investors worldwide are struggling to price in outcomes amid a volatile political environment, said a Reuters report.

But he added "the very benign investment backdrop - supported by a cyclical upturn in the global economy, central bank liquidity and a persistent savings glut - has... helped cushion markets from political shocks".

Traders will be watching for the outcome of the United States Federal Reserve's policy meeting today, although the central bank is not expected to move the benchmark lending rate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'Banks lift STI for second day in a row'. Print Edition | Subscribe