Market takes a breather as profit takers cash in

Losers include Singtel and Hong Kong Land but offshore marine sector extends gains

Singapore shares took a breather after last week's 7.1 per cent rally, with profit-taking on blue chips weighing down the index.

The benchmark Straits Times Index fell 0.48 per cent or 13.49 points to 2,823.51 after investors cashed in.

Major losers included Singtel, which slipped 1.6 per cent or six cents to $3.75, OCBC, which was down 0.8 per cent or seven cents to $8.72, Hong Kong Land, which sank 2.1 per cent or 13 US cents to US$6 and Thai Beverage, which lost 1.9 per cent or 1.5 cents to 75.5 cents.

"It's a healthy correction," remisier Alvin Yong said. DBS Group continued to rally, rising 0.1 per cent or two cents to $15.38.

The offshore marine sector, including Keppel Corp, Sembcorp Industries and Sembcorp Marine, extended its rebound after taking a battering in January as oil prices look set to firm further. Keppel jumped 1.6 per cent or 10 cents to $6.20, Sembcorp Industries rose 1.6 per cent or five cents to $3.19, and SembMarine climbed nearly 2 per cent or 3.5 cents to $1.80.

Oil and gas plays were among the most actively traded. Ezra Holdings shot up 27 per cent or 2.2 cents to 10.3 cents, with 332.1 million shares traded, and Vallianz surged 10 per cent or 0.5 cent to 5.4 cents, with nearly 116 million shares traded.

Rex International was another active, jumping 8.8 per cent or 0.8 cent to 9.9 cents on trade of 113.6 million shares, while Loyz Energy gained 12.5 per cent or 0.6 cent to 5.4 cents with 105.8 million shares traded. Commodity giant Noble Group also got a lift, climbing 7.1 per cent or three cents to 45 cents, with 212.7 million shares traded.

DBS Bank analyst Yeo Kee Yan said: "Our view for the Singapore equity market to hit an inflexion point at 2,500 has been vindicated. We keep our view for the STI to head towards 2,900 .

"We treat the current rise as a strong counter-trend rally rather than the start of a new bull market. Given the sharp rise over the past two weeks, we expect a pullback from the 2,840 level."

RHB Research said the rebound in oil prices is giving some reprieve to local banks, "given the vulnerability of their oil and gas exposures to an extended period of low oil prices".

Banking counters have rebounded off their lows in mid-February as investors took some comfort from details on exposures to the oil and gas sector and China, two key areas of asset-quality concerns.

Meanwhile, Interra Resources, which surged a whopping 71 per cent or 3.6 cents to 8.7 cents, got slapped with a query from the Singapore Exchange.

The petroleum exploration and production company, which saw 47.8 million shares traded, said it is not aware of information that may explain the trading.

Osim founder Ron Sim has made an offer to take the company private at $1.32 a share. Osim shares will resume trading today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Market takes a breather as profit takers cash in'. Subscribe