Noble dominates action as market weakens

Iceberg report puts the heat on commodity trader's share price, which plunges 16.7%

Commodity trader Noble Group dominated much of the trading on the Singapore bourse yesterday, thanks to a fresh report from Iceberg Research.

The stock was the day's most active counter, plummeting 4.5 cents or 16.7 per cent to 22.5 cents on 623.4 million shares done.

Noble told the Singapore Exchange in response to a trading query in the afternoon that it was not aware of any other reason behind the steep price drop other than the Iceberg article, which criticised the trader's recently-announced efforts to look for a strategic investor.

The stock's plunge came amid a wider retreat yesterday among Singapore equities, as traders cashed in on the strong gains seen in the last few days.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) lost 20.54 points or 0.65 per cent to 3,117.03. But it was still up 9.38 points or 0.3 per cent for the week. Overall turnover was 3.19 billion shares worth $1.43 billion.

Sentiment was also little helped by data that showed Singapore's industrial production expanded at a lower-than-expected 2.2 per cent in January over the same month last year.

Sembcorp Industries sank nine cents or 2.7 per cent to $3.27, even though the group announced on Thursday that its fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled to $147.5 million. Its rig-building unit Sembcorp Marine slumped 7.5 cents or 4.1 per cent to $1.74.

Other laggards included Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, which dropped steeply by 8 per cent or eight cents to 91.5 cents, and DBS Group Holdings, down two cents or 0.1 per cent to $18.87.

Property giant CapitaLand was one of the two blue-chip gainers, climbing one cent or 0.3 per cent to $3.63. Mr Kelvin Wong, chief technical strategist for Asia at City Index, said in a note that the stock's rally appears to be getting "overextended", citing technical indicators. He added that there are "several fundamental factors that may put a pause to the current rally" among developer stocks, such as rising interest rates and the lack of change to the property cooling measures in place.

Healthway Medical Corporation rocketed 17.1 per cent or 0.7 cent to 4.8 cents, despite having posted a wider net loss of $40.9 million for the quarter ended December 2016.

Elsewhere in Asia, most markets put up a poor showing as well. Tokyo eased 0.45 per cent, Hong Kong fell 0.62 per cent and Sydney dropped 0.79 per cent. Shanghai inched up 0.06 per cent.

"There are those out there thinking, 'Well, markets have had such a big run-up, it's time to take a bit of money off the table'," Mr Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors, told Bloomberg. "It wouldn't surprise me to see a bit of consolidation or correction, and maybe we're starting to see signs of that."

Meanwhile, Wall Street put on 0.17 per cent overnight, extending its winning streak to 10 days.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'Noble dominates action as market weakens'. Print Edition | Subscribe