Bulls And Bears

Markets cautious ahead of trade deal signing

Regional bourses, aside from Australia rising on gold stock gains, end lower

Asian markets pulled back on the eve of the United States-China trade pact signing to adopt a more cautious tone on news that the deal would not reduce existing tariffs on Chinese goods.

Aside from Australia, which rose 0.5 per cent on gains in gold stocks, most regional bourses ended lower yesterday.

Shares in Japan and South Korea snapped winning streaks as investors seized the chance to lock in profits gained over recent sessions. China and Hong Kong saw losses of 0.2 per cent to 0.5 per cent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index lost 13.56 points, or 0.4 per cent, to end at 3,256.98. Turnover was 1.31 billion shares worth $1.11 billion, with losers outpacing gainers 229 to 183.

Singapore Exchange market strategist Geoff Howie noted that the five most actively traded Singapore-based manufacturers all ended without gains.

Venture Corp, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, Wilmar International, ST Engineering and AEM Holdings averaged a decline of 0.9 per cent and trimmed their average gains for the year so far to 4 per cent.

AEM managed to close without losses, with investors perhaps encouraged by a KGI Securities report in which analyst Kenny Tan raised his target price from $1.80 to $2.57.

He noted that AEM remains undervalued against its peers and has room for further upside, despite its shares more than doubling last year.

AEM also stands to gain from its key customer's pivot into solutions that would drive demand for its high-density test handlers, while its recent acquisition of Mu-TEST will help it enter a new niche segment of the semiconductor market.


Golden Agri-Resources led active trading with 130 million shares changing hands. It lost 2.08 per cent to close at 23.5 cents.

Plastic components maker Fu Yu saw heavy trading of about 27.1 million and gained 12 per cent to 28 cents.

This came after DBS Group Research initiated coverage with a "buy" call, citing a turnaround in the manufacturing sector, the company's strong financial positioning and improving margins.

Singtel broke a losing streak that saw its price fall 4.13 per cent over four sessions. It closed up 0.3 per cent to $3.26.

Today's trading may reflect doubt over whether US President Donald Trump's "beautiful monster" of a pact can lead to further progress in negotiations to lower trade barriers, said Mr Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy for Asia and Oceania at Mizuho Bank.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Markets cautious ahead of trade deal signing'. Subscribe