Bulls And Bears

S'pore stocks sink as regional markets bleed

Investors taking wait-and-see stance as disappointing earnings weigh on sentiment

Singapore shares dropped for the sixth straight day amid a sea of red across the region, capping off a woeful week and setting a decidedly cautious tone for the week ahead.

The benchmark Straits Times Index shed 23.78 points, or 0.83 per cent, to 2,838.52 yesterday, with $1.05 billion worth of shares traded across the whole market.

For the week, STI slumped 3.47 per cent, marking the worst five-day stretch since mid-January.

Shanghai also lost ground for the week, albeit a more modest 0.7 per cent after shedding 0.25 per cent yesterday, as Hong Kong tumbled by 1.5 per cent.

Tokyo was closed for a holiday, saving investors there from further market shocks triggered by the surprise decision of the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to hold interest rates steady.

The BOJ move already doused sentiment on Wall Street overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 1.17 per cent.

Investors here note the broader jitters and will wait and see in the near term as earnings have also been disappointing, market analyst Liu Jinshu told The Straits Times.

"We need to see whether we can hold the 2,790-point support level. If that's broken, it may go all the way down to 2,500. I don't think we will see the panic sell-off like the one in January, but I think it would be wise to stay cautious," he said.

Twenty-two of the 30 STI constituents fell, with Jardine Cycle & Carriage closing down $1.62, or 4.03 per cent, at $38.62 after reporting a 20 per cent fall in its first-quarter net profit to US$140.6 million (S$188.9 million).

Keppel Corp pared 11 cents, or 2 per cent, to $5.40, and Sembcorp Marine dropped 1.5 cents, or 0.89 per cent, to $1.67. Ezra Holdings, outside the STI, ended flat at 10.2 cents, with 21.2 million shares traded - one of yesterday's top actives.

The offshore and marine plays may see some reprieve with oil prices still recovering. The crude oil futures Brent has hit above US$48 a barrel, still at its highest level since the start of the year. This current surge, helped in part by a weak US dollar, is no reason to be bullish on counters in the sector, Mr Liu said.

OCBC dropped 13 cents, or 1.46 per cent, to $8.77 after reporting a worse-than-expected 14 per cent net profit drop to $856 million. United Overseas Bank, which announced a 4.4 per cent drop in first-quarter net profit to $766 million earlier this week, dropped 25 cents, or 1.33 per cent, to $18.60.

Singapore Technologies Engineering put on five cents, or 1.58 per cent, to $3.22, rising the most among the seven STI counters that gained yesterday. It has gained some 5.6 per cent over the past month, and the build-up led OCBC analyst Carey Wong to downgrade his buy rating to a hold this week.

"While the stock price has corrected somewhat, we believe that valuations are not compelling enough... We would be looking to re-engage closer to $3," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore stocks sink as regional markets bleed'. Print Edition | Subscribe