Bulls And Bears

Regional markets hit by Trump's trade offensive

STI extends losses even as Singapore tech rally continues; China bucks trend

Regional markets were reeling yesterday from fears that United States President Donald Trump's trade offensive has found other victims.

The concern stemmed from his move to re-impose tariffs on imports of some base metals from Brazil and Argentina.

It did little to affect the rally of Singapore-listed tech manufacturers, which have in recent weeks been riding the tailwinds of a recovery.

These counters were also boosted after official factory data from China saw a reversal of a seven-month contraction last month. Manufacturing figures from South Korea also showed its contraction slowing.

That was one of the few bright spots as the rest of the local market fell foul to Mr Trump's trade tirade. The result left the Straits Times Index (STI) extending Monday's losses to close down 14.89 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 3,173.08 points.

UMS Holdings advanced 2.7 per cent to 96 cents and semiconductor tester Avi-Tech Electronics added 1.3 per cent up to 39.5 cents.

Meanwhile, AEM Holdings, which has Intel and Huawei Technologies as its key clients, closed 1 per cent lower to $1.94.

While the counter closed in the red, it spent half the session in the black and traded at an all-time high of $1.99 before investors booked profits following a 138 per cent climb this year.

DBS Bank chief investment officer Hou Wey Fook yesterday said the likelihood of an equity sell-off triggered by tech firms like the one that occurred last December is low.

He said earnings growth already underwent a downward revision, funds have registered strong outflows and interest rates have fallen.

However, that is where most of the positives end for the local market as Mr Trump's latest actions had a grip on investor sentiment, which was compounded by soft factory data from the United States.

Trading volume here stood at 1.60 billion shares worth $1.26 billion, with losers outpacing gainers 257 to 119. The blue-chip index had 19 of its 30 counters in the red.

Golden Agri-Resources was the STI's most active counter, adding 4.7 per cent to 22.5 cents with 98.2 million shares traded.

Last week, retail investors were top net buyers of the firm, while institutional investors were top net sellers, offloading positions after Golden Agri was dropped from the MSCI Singapore Index.

Elsewhere, benchmarks were also thwarted by Mr Trump's offensive. Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea were lower. China bucked the trend, with Shanghai adding 0.3 per cent. Taiwan also posted slight gains.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'Regional markets hit by Trump's trade offensive'. Print Edition | Subscribe