Second quarter opens on gloomy note

Asian markets decline as traders stay away; Singtel among biggest blue-chip losers here

Asian markets sank deeper into the red yesterday in a gloomy start to the second quarter as traders continued their flight to safety.

Japan led losses in the region, falling 3.6 per cent, its largest daily drop since mid-February, on a set of disappointing manufacturing data and a stronger yen.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong pared 1.3 per cent, Seoul slipped 1.2 per cent, Sydney tumbled 1.6 per cent and Kuala Lumpur dipped 0.4 per cent.

The local Straits Times Index (STI) was not spared either, sliding 22.41 points, or 0.79 per cent, to 2,818.49 - down 28.9 points or 1 per cent for the week.

Shanghai was flat, inching up just 0.2 per cent as traders appeared to took little heed of manufacturing numbers that beat forecasts.

"Normally, we could expect some sort of upside in the wake of better-than-expected Chinese manufacturing numbers," Ms Brenda Kelly, head analyst at London Capital Group, told Reuters.

"Certainly if they were poor, we'd be looking at a major downdraft in equities. But the focus appears to be on the negative." Wall Street was down 0.2 per cent overnight ahead of a monthly jobs report.

At home, telco Singtel was among the biggest blue-chip losers, dropping seven cents or 1.8 per cent to $3.75.

Real estate plays were also battered, with UOL Group down 19 cents or 3.2 per cent to $5.81 and CapitaLand falling five cents or 1.6 per cent to $3.02.

The three local banks were under pressure as well: DBS Group Holdings retreated 17 cents or 1.1 per cent to $15.21; OCBC Bank shaved two cents or 0.2 per cent to $8.82; and United Overseas Bank slipped 11 cents or 0.6 per cent to $18.76.

Ratings agency Moody's Investors Service lowered the credit rating outlook of the banks from stable to negative on Thursday, citing concerns over asset quality and profitability.

On the other side of the ledger, palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources fared well, jumping one cent or 2.4 per cent to 42 cents, while Global Logistic Properties grew one cent or 0.5 per cent to $1.935.

Ground handling firm Sats rose six cents or 1.5 per cent to $4.01, following its announcement on Thursday night that it has signed a joint venture deal with Oman Air for cargo-handling at Muscat International Airport.

Offshore support services provider Ezra Holdings slumped 0.7 cent or 6.3 per cent to 10.4 cents on heavy trade. This came after it announced after trading closed on Thursday that Japan's Chiyoda Corporation has completed its purchase of a 50 per cent stake in Ezra's subsea business unit.

The day's top active was Annica Holdings, which was unchanged at 0.1 cent on a volume of 293.4 million units.

A total of 1.41 billion shares worth $972.6 million were traded across the bourse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Second quarter opens on gloomy note'. Print Edition | Subscribe