Local shares ended the shortened week on a subdued note as investors reduced positions ahead of the Good Friday holiday and factored in the slightly lower-than- expected economic growth figures for the first quarter.
Dealers also cited geopolitical tensions, the upcoming French elections and uncertainty over whether the pending corporate earnings season can live up to its hype.
The Straits Times Index finished 0.53 per cent or 16.77 points lower at 3,169.24.
Singapore Press Holdings, Singtel, Global Logistic Properties and Jardine Cycle & Carriage led the index decliners. SPH shed 1.7 per cent or six cents to $3.46, GLP fell 1 per cent or three cents to $2.85 and Jardine C&C dipped 0.9 per cent or 41 cents to $45.62.
Singtel extended losses for a third session, slipping 1.3 per cent or five cents to $3.77, on trade of 46.9 million shares. This followed news that rival TPG Telecom - the fourth telco in Singapore - spent A$1.26 billion (S$1.3 billion) on mobile spectrum as part of a plan to build a fourth network in Australia.
Rising competition in the Australian 4G mobile sector is weighing on Singtel, which owns Optus, one of the major players in the country.
"The entry of TPG Telecom... means Singtel has to compete with TPG in both Singapore and Australia," UOB KayHian said.
Meanwhile, investors turned cautiously optimistic after Singapore's economy grew 2.5 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, easing from 2.9 per cent growth in the previous quarter.
"It's a little disappointing. Market sentiment is very fragile. Few are taking positions ahead of the long weekend, especially with geopolitical tensions lingering over Syria and North Korea," CMC Markets Singapore market analyst Margaret Yang said.
Market participants are watching the corporate earnings season, which kicks into full swing next week, starting with M1 on Monday, Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation on Tuesday and Keppel Corp and Singapore Exchange on Thursday. "Trading activity has gone up a lot in the first quarter, thanks to the Trump rally. So it should be quite positive for SGX's earnings," Ms Yang said.
Softer crude oil prices weighed on several offshore marine counters. Sembcorp Marine fell 1.1 per cent or two cents to $1.85, Sembcorp Industries dipped 0.3 per cent or one cent to $3.14, Ezion Holdings lost 2.8 per cent or one cent to 35 cents, and KrisEnergy shed 1.1 per cent or 0.2 cent to 18 cents.
The most active penny stocks were Addvalue Tech, which rose nearly 7 per cent or 0.3 cent to 4.6 cents, with 141.8 million shares traded; Artivision Tech, which fell 8.7 per cent or 0.2 cent to 2.1 cents, with 55.3 million shares traded; and Noble Group, which lost 2.7 per cent or 0.5 cent to 18.3 cents, with 49.7 million shares changing hands.