Bulls and bears

Investors in no mood to bank on equities

STI joins regional indices in red territory as concerns over bank stocks worldwide spread

The two-day holiday has done nothing to cheer investors' mood, going by yesterday's gush of red ink.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) resumed trading on a dismal note, falling nearly 3 per cent in just the first 15 minutes. It later pared its losses to finish 41.11 points or 1.57 per cent down at 2,582.1.

Concerns over bank stocks worldwide, especially in Europe, and the market rout in Japan, which suffered a bruising 5 per cent fall on Tuesday, weighed on sentiment.

Yesterday, Tokyo continued to head south, sliding 2.3 per cent. Sydney retreated 1.2 per cent while Kuala Lumpur fell 1.1 per cent. Shanghai and Hong Kong remained shut for the Chinese New Year holiday.

Wall Street slipped 0.1 per cent on Tuesday.

"Concerns about European banks are contributing to the risk-off mood in markets," Mr Shinichiro Kadota, chief forex strategist at Barclays in Japan, told Reuters.

Also, "US data this month has been weak and Fed officials appear to be toning down on rate hikes".


Local banks were among the biggest losers, with DBS Group sliding 22 cents or 1.6 per cent to $13.38.

OCBC Bank shed 13 cents or 1.7 per cent to $7.56, and United Overseas Bank lost 31 cents or 1.7 per cent to $17.56.

A Nomura report last week noted that Singapore banks tumbled 11 per cent last month, in line with others in the region, as markets "not only questioned their top-line growth but also pondered potential costs via higher non-performing loans".

But it also said the banks had "underperformed" owing to concerns over their exposure to China and commodities.

Commodity trader Noble Group shaved half a cent or 1.5 per cent to 32.5 cents on heavy trade of 50.4 million units, and palm planter Golden Agri-Resources fell one cent or 2.6 per cent to 37.5 cents.

Real estate counters also took a beating: CapitaLand fell nine cents or 3 per cent to $2.90 and Ascendas Reit sank six cents or 2.5 per cent to $2.33.

Warehouse facilities provider Global Logistic Properties was the day's most heavily traded stock, with 50.9 million shares changing hands. The counter slid five cents or 3 per cent to $1.63.

Among the penny stocks, Chinese department store operator Zhongmin Baihui Retail Group crashed by 45 cents or 25.7 per cent to $1.30 after the Singapore Exchange (SGX) last Friday said it was reviewing trading in the counter.

The SGX said it has found that a small group of individuals accounted for almost all the buy volume in Zhongmin Baihui shares since last October. It noted that Zhongmin Baihui's shares had stayed relatively stable since Oct 26, despite declines in the broader market, and have rarely closed lower than $1.76 since the start of this year.

Trading across the bourse amounted to 802.2 million units worth $1.2 billion yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Investors in no mood to bank on equities'. Print Edition | Subscribe