Regional markets rally on ECB stimulus hope, STI closes 44 points up

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares made a strong comeback on Friday, in tandem with markets across the region which rallied on stimulus hopes.

The Straits Times Index (STI) rose 44.39 points, or 1.75 per cent, to 2,577.09, snapping a two-day decline. For the week, however, it was a down 53.67 points or 2 per cent.

The index's performance mirrored positive sentiment on Wall Street, which shook off afternoon losses to climb 0.7 per cent on Thursday, after the European Central Bank hinted it may bolster economic support in the coming months.

This comes amid growing uncertainty over China's economic slowdown and the crash in oil prices.

Elsewhere, Tokyo surged 5.9 per cent, its biggest single-day gain in more than four months, while Shanghai grew 1.3 per cent and Hong Kong jumped 2.9 per cent.

Seoul advanced 2.1 per cent, Sydney added 1.1 per cent and Kuala Lumpur put on 1.5 per cent.

"Today has been a technical bounce just after being oversold and also in congruence with oil being up today," Mr Aaron Jett, vice-president of global equity research at Los Angeles-based Bel Air Investment Advisors told Bloomberg.

"There's no question there's a lot of concern... There's so much negativity out there and that's often a contrarian sign that things aren't as bad as they seem, they're overblown. If the dollar can stabilise and if oil can stabilise, I think the market can stabilise."

Commodity plays were among those leading the charge yesterday. Noble Group rose one cent or 3.6 per cent to 29 cents, logging its second straight day of gains on heavy trade, while Golden Agri-Resources jumped one cent or 3 per cent to 34.5 cents.

The oil and gas-related players gained ground as well, as global crude benchmark Brent rebounded from 12-year lows to levels of around US$30 a barrel.

Sembcorp Marine surged 15 cents or 6.8 per cent to S$2.34, while Keppel Corporation soared 22 cents or 4.6 per cent to S$5.02, despite reporting a 44 per cent plunge in net profit to S$404.78 million for the fourth quarter to Dec 31.

The local banks were back in the black: DBS Group Holdings edged up 10 cents or 0.7 per cent to S$13.87, OCBC Bank gained 15 cents or 2 per cent to S$7.72 and United Overseas Bank jumped 55 cents or 3.2 per cent to S$17.62.

A total of 1.25 billion units worth $1.44 billion were traded across the bourse.