Bulls And Bears

STI continues rise, taking cue from Wall St

Local banks set pace; optimism over new orders lifts offshore marine-linked stocks

The chain reaction effect worked its magic yesterday: United States senators ended the government shutdown, Wall Street surged overnight, Singapore shares followed suit as if on cue.

Once the dust had settled, the benchmark Straits Times Index added 22.65 points to 3,592.08, with 2.5 billion shares worth $1.8 billion changing hands. Gainers outpaced losers 325 to 182.

The positive finish also underscored how determined investors were to look on the bright side of life these days.

"Whether it's the US government shutdown, turmoil in the White House or North Korea nuclear jitters, nothing seems to faze the stock market," an observer noted.

Even news that US President Donald Trump plans to slap steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels was largely ignored despite having potential impact on Asian manufacturers.

Once again it was the local banks that set the pace. DBS Group Holdings added 40 cents to $26.84, OCBC Bank was up eight cents to $13.24, while United Overseas Bank advanced 43 cents to $28.37.

Concerns over the energy sector have been replaced by renewed optimism over new orders, triggering several re-ratings of offshore marine-related stocks by analysts.

DBS Group Research lifted its target price for Sembcorp Marine to $3.10, Sembcorp Industries to $4.50, and Keppel Corp to $10.30.

Keppel rose 40 cents or almost 5 per cent to $8.69, while Sembcorp Industries added 14 cents to $3.52, and SembMarine put on 18 cents, or 7.5 per cent, to $2.57 with about 33 million shares traded.

UBS Investment Research also upgraded its rating on SembMarine yesterday to "buy" and lifted its target price to $3.06 from $1.85. It said the firm is expected to see a revival of new orders to $4 billion this year.

AEM Holdings, which expects operating profit before tax to reach between $35 million and $37 million in the 2017 financial year, up from previous guidance of at least $32 million, continued to attract interest. The stock rose 53 cents, or 14.60 per cent, to $4.16 - and up 20 per cent since Monday.

CIMB, which raised its target price to $5.97, said: "We believe the new guidance reflects continued momentum with its major customer and margin improvement.

"AEM is also considering issuing bonus shares to reward shareholders. We view this positively as liquidity could improve and this could pave the way for institutional funds to become shareholders."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2018, with the headline 'STI continues rise, taking cue from Wall St'. Print Edition | Subscribe