S'pore shares end lower as China powers ahead

Asian markets mostly in the red, taking cue from overnight fall of 0.67% on Wall Street

Local shares ended lower yesterday despite a surge in China where trading resumed after a week-long Chinese New Year hiatus.

China's CSI 300 Index - which tracks the large caps listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen - added 2.2 per cent, its biggest gain since August 2016, while the Shanghai Composite was up 2.17 per cent.

But other Asian markets were mostly in the red, after taking their cue from the overnight decline of 0.67 per cent on Wall Street. The Hang Seng index lost 1.48 per cent; Japan's Nikkei shed 1.07 per cent.

Wall Street dipped on concerns of higher interest rates.

Mr Rob Carnell, chief economist and head of research, Asia-Pacific at ING, said: "Recent Fed minutes indicate that there will almost certainly be a hike at the March meeting - given that chairman (Jerome) Powell may need to add some aggressive testimony to stamp his hawkish credentials."

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) mirrored regional weakness. After opening at 3,503.09, it ended at 3,488.46, down 27.77 points, or 0.79 per cent. About 1.8 billion shares worth $1.7 billion changed hands with 121 gainers to 331 losers.

Sembcorp Marine took a huge beating following its $33.8 million losses for the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with a net profit of $34.3 million a year earlier.

The stock lost 30 cents or a whopping 11.4 per cent to $2.33 on trade of 52 million shares.

Interestingly, most analysts are keeping their buy calls on the offshore marine group, citing higher-than-expected order wins and a possible corporate action by parent Sembcorp Industries.

OCBC analyst Low Pei Han said that all eyes will be on Sembcorp Industries when it announces results today as the market looks for an update on the group's ongoing strategic review.

Talk has been that Sembcorp Industries may be looking to divest or privatise SembMarine.

Among local banks, OCBC bucked the trend to end up 10 cents at $13.10 while rivals DBS and United Overseas Bank closed lower.

Mr Eli Lee, the head of investment strategy at the Bank of Singapore, said the long-term outlook for equities remains positive. "We have an overweight rating on European equities, which are supported by solid EU growth and an overall rotation towards relative value," he said. "Rising bond yields will also benefit the European banking sector which is a significant component of the European market."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore shares end lower as China powers ahead'. Subscribe