Singapore shares pare losses to end slightly down

Disappointment over Doha talks overcome by firmer US and European index futures

Singapore shares pared early losses as firmer United States and European index futures helped offset a bearish start to the session.

The Straits Times Index had lost 30.35 points or 1.04 per cent at the opening after oil producers that supply almost half the world's crude failed to negotiate an output freeze aimed at stemming the price rout.

But it closed only 0.21 per cent or 6.19 points lower at 2,917.75.

Disappointment over the Doha talks triggered selling on oil-related plays. Keppel Corp slid 2 per cent or 12 cents to $6, as Sembcorp Industries shed nearly 2 per cent or six cents to $2.99. Sembcorp Marine fell 3.1 per cent or 5.5 cents to $1.745.

Oil prices tumbled over 5 per cent after Saudi Arabia vowed to not cut production unless other oil producers acted in unison, after Iran did not take part in the Doha talks.

"Iran's absence from the meeting is unsurprising as it has always retained its stance on ramping up production post-sanctions but markets have been expecting some sort of deal to be put together anyway. We could now see near-term weakness," DBS Group Research said.

But Citi Research believes "negative spillover of lower oil prices to other commodities and asset classes may be limited". It said a "continued positive surprise from China's economic activity data is likely to support risk sentiment".

The STI was also weighed down by banks DBS Group Holdings, which lost 0.44 per cent or seven cents to $15.68, United Overseas Bank, which lost 0.7 per cent or 14 cents to $19.49, and OCBC which fell 0.11 per cent or one cent to $9.28.

New listing Acromec jumped more than 18.2 per cent on its debut on the Catalist board. Shares of the cleanroom specialist closed at 26 cents, above its initial public offering price of 22 cents. It had offered 27 million new shares, raising net proceeds of about $4.5 million.

Oil-related penny counters took a hit. Rex International fell 4.3 per cent or 0.5 cent to 11 cents, with 23.9 million shares traded. Ezion slid 3.6 per cent or two cents to 53.5 cents, and Tech Oil & Gas eased 1.6 per cent or 0.3 cent to 18.4 cents.

Shares of Ezra Holdings fell 1.9 per cent or 0.2 cent to 10.2 cents, with 62.7 million shares traded, after posting disappointing second-quarter results on Friday, due to weakness in the offshore support-vessel segment. The offshore services provider reported a "kitchen-sinking" quarterly net loss of US$250 million, dragged down by one-off loss items of about US$217 million. DBS Group Research, which has a hold call on the stock, said: "We believe this set of results does nothing to inspire confidence in the stock. However, impact on share price may not be severe as valuations are already quite depressed."

Shares of Osim International edged up 0.36 per cent or 0.5 cent to $1.395 after the lifestyle products group said it would, on a goodwill basis, pay shareholders who sold their stock on April 5 below $1.39 apiece an additional payment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore shares pare losses to end slightly down'. Subscribe