Local investors took Singapore's dismal export figures in their stride yesterday while the market itself barely moved the needle.
The Straits Times Index (STI) was stuck in the doldrums for most of the day until it lifted 4.84 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 3,364.87.
The headline news was that non-oil domestic exports fell 17.3 per cent year on year last month. This followed last Friday's advanced estimate that put second-quarter growth at just 0.1 per cent.
Observers were not surprised at the market's indifference. "I don't think there is much of a shock factor to weaker data as it's been priced in," Vanguard Markets managing partner Stephen Innes said.
A trader remarked: "Its not new news, manufacturing has been contracting. Besides, we are now looking ahead to the quarterly results."
That said, ING Asia economist Prakash Sakpal noted that the dip in exports "raises the odds of the Monetary Authority of Singapore easing monetary policy well ahead of the next scheduled semi-annual policy review in October".
He said: "We continue to expect easing either this month or next."
Trading volume clocked in at 1.04 billion shares worth $1.05 billion, with losers beating gainers 199 to 191. There were 12 STI components in the red.
Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, which fell 1.3 per cent to $1.50, was the STI's most active with 29.5 million shares changing hands. The shipbuilder said on Tuesday after market close that it has taken a 55 per cent stake in Odfjell Terminal (Jiangyin) for US$46.2 million (S$63 million), funded by internal resources.
DBS Equity Research analyst Ho Pei Hwa said the deal is in line with Yangzijiang's move into clean energy as it plans to expand and build liquefied natural gas storage terminals. DBS Bank maintained its "buy" recommendation and target price of $1.82 on the shipbuilder after the acquisition.
There was a flurry of activity late yesterday over Sembcorp Marine, which surged 7.1 per cent between 4pm and 4.20pm, more than any full-day gain since Dec 3. It drew a query from the Singapore bourse.
The counter closed 7.9 per cent up at $1.51 on 21.3 million shares traded, of which just 1.1 million were transacted before 4pm.
Elsewhere, markets were mostly lower due to fading optimism over United States-China trade talks. China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea finished lower but Australia bucked the trend, due to a lift by mining firms and financials.