Bulls And Bears

STI closes lower in lacklustre trading

Monday's Budget could give boost to healthcare stocks later, analysts say

You could just about hear a pin drop in yesterday's muted market trading as investors kept their heads down and wallets closed.

There was some profit-taking but not much to focus on, given American bourses were closed for a public holiday overnight.

The Straits Times Index (STI) managed to stay above water for most of the day but eventually ended 6.17 points or 0.2 per cent lower at 3,259.80, with 1.12 billion shares worth $775.94 million changing hands. This was below the Singapore Exchange's daily average volume. Losers outnumbered gainers 218 to 172.

CMC Market's Margaret Yang said the low volume "suggests investors are not eager to jump into the market at the current level, due to mixed earnings and a tepid economic outlook".

Pennies saw heavy trading, with marine firm Ezion Holdings the most active. It lost 2.3 per cent to close at 4.2 cents on trade of 40.1 million shares.

Genting Singapore lost 0.9 per cent to $1.09, with 26.9 million shares changing hands, making it the STI's most active.

Ms Yang attributed the STI's dip mainly to profit-taking: ThaiBev was down 3 per cent to 79.5 cents; Singapore Airlines lost 1.2 per cent to $9.83; Jardine C&C retreated 1.3 per cent to $36.26; and HPH Trust declined 4.4 per cent to 32.5 cents.

Among financials, DBS Bank, which released full-year results on Monday, fell 0.4 per cent to $25.10.

Analysts said healthcare stocks could be among the winners from Monday's Budget, but not so much in the short term.

Raffles Medical rose 0.9 per cent to $1.12, Thomson Medical dipped 1.3 per cent to 7.9 cents, and OUE Lippo Healthcare put on 6.3 per cent to close at 6.7 cents.

Elsewhere in Asia, profit-taking meant markets ebbed and flowed, with Australia, Japan, China and Malaysia posting modest gains. South Korea and Hong Kong closed with mild losses.

Although it was a quiet day, upcoming events this week suggest things might heat up.

CapitaLand and Sembcorp Marine announce results today, Genting Singapore is set to report tomorrow, with OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank on Friday.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi also pointed to today's release of the minutes of the US Federal Reserve meeting, and US-China trade negotiations towards the end of the week. While the US and China have shown more patience with one another, "some of the difficult issues are expected back on the discussion table", she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'STI closes lower in lacklustre trading'. Print Edition | Subscribe