The local market was unable to stretch its gain to a second straight day yesterday, as investors stayed uncertain over the outlook despite strong market performance in China.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) pared 13.8 points, or 0.48 per cent, to close at 2,868.47.
About 1.46 billion shares worth $969.1 million changed hands in a session that had shown upward momentum through most of the day, pushing the STI to above 2,900 before a late-hour sell-off sent the shares back into the red.
The decline followed a 0.77 per cent rise in the the Dow Jones Industrial Average overnight.
Chinese markets - often the source of bearish sentiments lately - also gained. Shanghai rose 0.92 per cent. Hong Kong rose 0.18 per cent.
It was not surprising that local sentiment has not been equally positive, said remisier Desmond Leong.
"What spooked the investors yesterday was probably the over 200-point fall of Dow Jones' futures," he said, indicating that investors remained preoccupied with uncertainties around the timing of the United States Federal Reserve rate hike. "The last-hour sell-off showed that sentiments are still quite fra-gile, and many investors remain apprehensive and will take money away at the first negative sign."
But the worst seemed to be over, Mr Leong noted, adding the market should be able to avoid a major drop if it does not breach the 2,800 level, even though trading will stay sideways for at least this week.
Seven blue-chip counters managed to eke out a gain. Thai Beverage was again the top-gaining blue chip, rising 1.5 cents, or 2.19 per cent, to 70 cents. Wilmar International rose five cents, or 1.88 per cent, to $2.71.
The performance of the three new STI entrants - UOL Group, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding and Sats - was mixed after their strong debut on the benchmark index on Monday.
UOL Group dropped three cents, or 0.49 per cent, to $6.05. Yangzijiang pared 2.5 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $1.165. But Sats put on three cents, or 0.77 per cent, and closed at $3.94.
OCBC Investment Research maintained its "hold" rating for the logistics firm. It said yesterday: "We believe Sats is fairly valued at current price levels, and supported by forward dividend yield of 3.9 per cent."
Offshore and marine plays stayed under pressure. Sembcorp Marine fell seven cents, or 2.92 per cent, to $2.33. Keppel Corp closed 18 cents, or 2.52 per cent, down at $6.97.
Outside the STI, International Healthway Corp was the top active counter with about 214 million shares transacted. It fell 0.3 cent, or 3.03 per cent, to 9.6 cents, amid uncertainties around its planned acquisition of Healthway Medical Corp.
Neptune Orient Lines was given a "trade with caution" warning by Singapore Exchange over a substantial rise in traded volume. The firm closed 2.5 cents, or 2.84 per cent, up at 90.5 cents. It earlier told SGX it was unaware of any reason for the abnormal trading.