Bulls And Bears

Regional markets fall on trade deal uncertainty

With Wall St sliding, STI dips 0.4% but still fares better than most bourses in region

Investors cannot get a break these days, what with US President Donald Trump building on his recent offensive by suggesting a United States-China trade deal might not happen until after the US presidential election in November next year.

This sent Wall Street tumbling overnight on Tuesday with regional markets following yesterday.

The Straits Times Index (STI) extended broad losses from Tuesday to finish at 3,159.79, down 13.29 points or 0.4 per cent.

For what it is worth, the local benchmark did not fare too badly compared with the sell-offs on regional bourses.

The red lights were flashing in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan. Of the lot, Australia's ASX 200 fared worst, dropping 1.6 per cent.

In recent weeks, markets had fed off hope that a "phase one" trade deal was imminent, giving the sense that an agreement between Beijing and Washington was a foregone conclusion. But Mr Trump's most recent admission certainly tips the scale in the other direction.

"The market was too complacent, thinking both superpowers would be able to compartmentalise these issues (like the Hong Kong Bill and disallowing the US Navy from visiting Hong Kong) away from the broader trade narrative," AxiTrader chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes said.

"And it appears nothing could be further from the truth as we could be a step or two away from yet another tariff war escalation."

Trading volumes here came in at 1.07 billion shares worth $1.37 billion, with losers trouncing gainers 224 to 134.

A sign of the broad-based declines came with 24 of the STI's 30 counters ending in the loss column.

Golden Agri-Resources was the most active counter with 72.3 million shares changing hands. It ended 4.4 per cent lower at 21.5 cents.

The local banks continued their retreat. UOB closed at $25.38, down 0.6 per cent, OCBC dipped 0.4 per cent to $10.65 and DBS edged down 0.2 per cent to $24.92.

Among the bright spots was Parkway Life Reit. Units in the healthcare-focused play gained 1.2 per cent to $3.26 after the firm acquired three nursing rehabilitation facilities in Japan for 3.7 billion yen (S$46.4 million).

Some Jardine stocks fared well. Jardine Matheson Holdings advanced 1.3 per cent to US$54.61, Jardine Strategic Holdings added 1.4 per cent to US$31.95 and Dairy Farm International gained 2.1 per cent to US$5.89.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Regional markets fall on trade deal uncertainty'. Print Edition | Subscribe