Markets trade sideways ahead of US holiday

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) dipped 6.85 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 3,423.17, after finishing Wednesday at its highest since May 2015. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Thanksgiving lethargy in the United States extended across the Pacific on Thursday (Nov 23) and left local equities in the doldrums.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) dipped 6.85 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 3,423.17, after finishing Wednesday at its highest since May 2015.

More than 2.63 billion shares changed hands but worth only S$976.9 million, with losers outnumbering gainers 311 to 143.

Small bouts of optimism - on the back of the morning's strong growth figures and the afternoon's muted inflation data - failed to gee up investors.

The STI ticked up to 3,430.02 at 9am after third-quarter GDP growth clocked in at a three-year high of 5.2 per cent over the same period last year.

But the cheer quickly evaporated despite a passing spike when data came out at 1pm to show headline inflation holding steady at 0.4 per cent, in line with expectations.

Keppel Corp added six cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $7.59, before announcing that its Keppel Land unit is in line to buy a share of two sites in Bangkok's central business district.

Singapore Press Holdings put on one cent, or 0.37 per cent, to $2.71, ahead of announcing that it has raised its stake in MindChamps Holdings' pre-school arm to 26.84 per cent.

But these feel-good stories were the exception rather than the rule.

Positive news failed to give a lift to several other counters.

Singtel, lauded in a morning report from OCBC Investment Research as the bright spot in a muted telecom sector, stayed flat at $3.70.

Singapore Exchange also closed unchanged, at $7.50, in spite of taking home the "Exchange of the Year Asia" title for Asian commodities from Energy Risk magazine.

Developer Chip Eng Seng Corporation, which said on Wednesday that it had picked up two adjoining Perth properties in a 70:30 joint venture deal, shed 0.5 cents to $0.93.

Heavy equipment supplier Hoe Leong Corporation's afternoon update on debt restructuring also could not perk up the stock.

The group is turning to vessel and spare-part loans and the issuance of new ordinary shares to restructure the its $80 million or so in debt.

The stock lost 0.6 cents, or 12.5 per cent, to 4.2 cents.

A lacklustre day, but the index "is just taking a breather", Maybank Kim Eng Securities sales trader Wong Kok Hoong told Reuters.

Elsewhere, Thanksgiving inertia has hit the United States with major indices flattish.

The Dow dipped by 0.27 per cent and the S&P by 0.08 per cent overnight with the Nasdaq an outlier, rising 0.07 per cent.

Chinese stocks took a dive amid fears that the government will rein in a recent rally, even as bond sell-offs spook the market.

Shanghai dropped 2.29 per cent, Shenzhen by 2.92 per cent and Hong Kong by 0.99 per cent.

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