Bulls And Bears

Investors wary ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

STI inches up 0.26% as fears of rising trade tensions continue to unnerve markets

Local stocks managed to end the week on a modestly upbeat note, but investors remain wary over the much-awaited Group of 20 (G-20) meeting between United States President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today.

The Straits Times Index (STI) inched up 0.26 per cent to 3,117.61, with a relatively even field of 186 losers to 171 gainers, and ahead 2.13 per cent for the week.

Dovish talk from the US Federal Reserve during the week gave markets a much-needed lift, although fears of escalating US-China trade tensions continued to unnerve markets.

Marine and offshore firm Ezion was the most active here, with 56 million shares changing hands as the stock fell 1.6 per cent to 6.1 cents.

Local banks bolstered the STI: DBS advanced 0.83 per cent to $24.38, United Overseas Bank rose 0.16 per cent to $25.15, and OCBC Bank was 0.18 per cent higher at $11.26.

Bank lending in Singapore rose in October from September, when there had been a slight contraction, preliminary data showed yesterday.

But OCBC head of treasury research and strategy Selena Ling noted that it was the slowest year-on-year pace of expansion since January last year. She predicted bank loan growth would decelerate further amid heightened uncertainty over global growth prospects and the US-China trade war.

"Our forecast for 2018 bank loan growth stands at 4.6 per cent year on year, but is likely to moderate further to around 2.5 per cent year on year in 2019," she said.

Data yesterday showed that growth in China's manufacturing sector stalled for the first time in more than two years last month despite government stimulus, adding to the G-20 meeting's stakes. China remains the biggest trade partner for most countries in Asia.

"I wouldn't be surprised at the end of this weekend if the US and China didn't announce a concord that basically sets down a path to help resolve the trade frictions," Mr Scott Minerd, chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, told Bloomberg TV.

"I don't think that out of the meeting there's going to come much substance, but there will be a sort of set of principles that will be established to start the process of bringing an end to the trade war."

Other Asian bourses climbed cautiously - Tokyo rose 0.4 per cent, Shanghai was up 0.81 per cent and Hong Kong's stocks ended 0.2 per cent higher.

Seoul slipped 0.82 per cent while Sydney slumped 1.58 per cent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2018, with the headline 'Investors wary ahead of Trump-Xi meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe