Further falls by the local banks again weighed down the Singapore market, which lost ground for the second straight day.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) shed 15.98 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 3,278.95 with overall turnover amounting to just 942 million shares worth $1.1 billion.
DBS Group Holdings took the biggest hit, sinking 1.9 per cent or 39 cents to $20.39. United Overseas Bank lost 1 per cent or 23 cents to $23.73 while OCBC Bank slid 0.2 per cent or two cents to $11.19.
"The interest rates have not really been rising as much as people are expecting, so that will definitely impact the interest margin, going forward," Mr Joel Ng, a KGI Securities analyst in Singapore, told Reuters.
"Many oil and gas companies are now having huge writedowns on their assets. I think that is also affecting the banks somewhat."
Fears over the banks' exposures to the still-battered offshore and marine sector have returned in recent weeks - particularly after Ezion Holdings called for a trading suspension on Monday, pending discussions with its stakeholders, which include bank lenders and other creditors. Ezion last traded at 19.7 cents on Aug 8.
A PhillipCapital report said it estimates Ezion's total debt due in the next 18 months to be about US$419 million (S$573 million), compared with cash on hand of only US$93 million as at June 30. "The preliminary assessment is that the ongoing support from banks must be unanimous... Some banks' loans are backed by well-performing assets while others' are not, so the group will face challenges dealing with such discrepancies," it said.
Sino Grandness Food Industry Group received a trading query from the Singapore Exchange in the afternoon. The counter tumbled to 16 cents before finishing at 18.3 cents, 12.9 per cent or 2.7 cents down from the previous day's close.
Best World International, a direct- selling firm and beauty-product distributor, continued to slide with a 1.1 per cent or 1.5-cent drop to $1.34. This followed a 12 per cent drop on Tuesday on news that China is cracking down on pyramid schemes.
DBS downgraded its call on the stock to "hold", noting "possible spillover impact" from China's anti-pyramid-selling campaign.
CIMB reiterated its "add" rating. "While it holds a direct-selling licence, Best World's China revenues are based on an 'export' model. Hence we believe it is unlikely to fall under... this campaign," it said.
Real estate firm Rowsley retained its spot as the day's top traded counter with 69.6 million shares changing hands. It dropped 1.9 per cent or 0.2 cent to 10.3 cents.
Markets in the rest of Asia were mostly mixed as traders awaited the minutes of the United States Federal Reserve's latest meeting for clues on its policy outlook. Hong Kong advanced 0.86 per cent, while Shanghai edged down 0.15 per cent and Tokyo pared 0.12 per cent.