Bulls And Bears

India-Pakistan conflict spooks Asian markets

Singapore, HK and KL bourses end in the red after news of downed Indian jets

Trading here got off to a positive start yesterday morning, but escalating geopolitical tensions between India and Pakistan saw the market swinging into the red in the later session.

The Straits Times Index (STI), which had gained as much as 20 points in the early session, closed 11.64 points, or 0.36 per cent, lower at 3,250.02, with about 1.25 billion securities worth $1.22 billion traded. Losers outnumbered gainers 244 to 174.

Shares in Genting Singapore - the most traded for the day - ended flat at $1.04 with 42.8 million shares traded. On trade volumes in the casino operator, UOB Kay Hian's vice-president of equities and financial products Brandon Leu noted there was "a good hustle between buyers and sellers in the market".

The most actively traded penny stock was KrisEnergy. On Tuesday, the upstream oil and gas firm posted a higher net loss for the fourth quarter of US$97.3 million (S$131 million), up from US$87.6 million in the year-ago period.

It prompted a sell-off as the counter closed 0.6 cent, or 7.4 per cent, lower at 7.5 cents, with 29.9 million shares changing hands.

Of the 30 STI constituents, 19 ended the day in the red.

The trio of counters bearing the Jardine name were among the blue-chip index's best performers.

Jardine Matheson Holdings closed US$1.37, or 2 per cent, higher at US$71.23, and Jardine Strategic Holdings added 57 US cents, or 1.4 per cent, to close at US$40.25. Jardine Cycle & Carriage ended 21 cents, or 0.6 per cent, up at $36.63.

DBS Group Holdings dipped two cents, or 0.1 per cent, to $25.15. OCBC Bank dropped two cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $11.18, while United Overseas Bank ended nine cents, or 0.4 per cent, lower at $25.21.

Elsewhere in Asia, markets that closed before news broke that Pakistan had shot down two Indian fighter jets - Australia, Japan, South Korea and China - ended higher, while those that did not - Hong Kong and Malaysia - closed lower.

The conflict is likely to be a major topic this week.

CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang said: "Concern about further escalation in the military confrontation would... drive demand for safe havens."

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted that data releases like China's February Purchasing Managers' Index and the United States' fourth-quarter gross domestic product data, as well as news on US-China trade talks, could induce further turbulence in the markets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline 'India-Pakistan conflict spooks Asian markets'. Print Edition | Subscribe