Regional rout amid further drop in oil prices

Chinese investors also rush for exits as bank loan data for last month lower than expected

Asia stocks took another beating yesterday following a further drop in oil prices, while the sell-off in China intensified as investors were rattled by downbeat economic data.

Shanghai led the regional plunge with a 3.55 per cent drop, hitting its lowest since December 2014 and down 9 per cent for the week.

Chinese investors rushed for the exits yesterday after the bank loan data for last month came in lower than expected.

Further economic data will be available on Tuesday when fourth- quarter growth figures are announced, but market confidence is clearly in tatters.

As a result, Hong Kong was down 1.5 per cent, Tokyo dropped 0.54 per cent and Sydney closed down 0.34 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index remained in the red. It dropped 13.81 points, or 0.52 per cent, to 2,630.76, pushing the five-day drop to 4.38 per cent.

Nomura analyst Mixo Das urged investors to stay calm amid the regional rout. He said yesterday: "Markets have endured a jittery start to 2016, and concerns around China's growth and the yuan may keep volatility elevated near term.

"Still, these risks should fade over time, and the basics of our outlook remain unchanged - a gradual (Federal Reserve) hiking cycle, slowing Chinese growth without a hard landing, and slowly improving sentiment on Asean."

Mr Das added that the sell-off hitting the banking sector in Singapore is not justified. "True, the economy is highly impacted from a China slowdown, but our bank analyst continues to believe that concerns about asset quality deterioration are overdone."

Still, the banks were among the top losing blue chips yesterday, when 19 STI constituents closed lower. DBS dropped 20 cents, or 1.35 per cent, to $14.64. OCBC pared eight cents, or 1 per cent, to $7.95; and United Overseas Bank shed 23 cents, or 1.29 per cent, to $17.60.

Keppel Corp was also down, dropping two cents, or 0.41 per cent, to $4.84 as Brent crude futures dipped below US$30 per barrel. However, Sembcorp Marine managed to gain 1.5 cents, or 1.09 per cent, to $1.385.

Other STI gainers included Singtel, which put on six cents, or 1.71 per cent, to $3.56, and Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, up one US cent, or 2.04 per cent, to 50 US cents.

Outside the STI, Eindec Corp debuted on the Catalist board. Amid the dismal market, the environmental solutions provider opened higher than its offering price and closed up 8.5 per cent at 25.5 cents.

Eindec, which operates manufacturing plants in Singapore and Malaysia, was spun off from mainboard-listed Weiye Holdings.

Another Catalist counter, Koyo International, fell 5.5 cents, or 13.92 per cent, to 34 cents. The tech firm, whose shares have been gaining since late last October, is under Singapore Exchange scrutiny over potentially irregular trading activities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Regional rout amid further drop in oil prices'. Print Edition | Subscribe