STI down by a whisker on weak sentiment

Bombings in Brussels among concerns worldwide causing investors to remain wary

Singapore shares inched down yesterday amid a lack of positive leads globally and worries over the Brussels bombings.

The Straits Times Index (STI) was nearly flat, finishing 0.04 point lower at 2,880.65, despite opening 4.3 points higher in the morning.

Elsewhere in the region, Tokyo led gains, rising 1.9 per cent as the yen remained weak. Seoul and Kuala Lumpur climbed 0.4 per cent.

Shanghai slid 0.6 per cent to post its first loss in eight days, as the market assessed new guidelines on pension products amid growing concern over comments by People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan on speculative capital.

The sell-off weighed on Hong Kong, which lost 0.1 per cent. Sydney and Taipei pared 0.3 per cent.

While markets in Asia have rebounded in recent weeks, investor sentiment remains weak.

"We're at a key junction where we need to see fresh news to push the market higher," Mr Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG, told Bloomberg.

"Central banks have put in place measures that helped subdue market volatility. However, the market is at risk of going into some sort of consolidation."

The STI's performance was dragged down in part by DBS Group Holdings, which dropped 20 cents or 1.3 per cent to $15.55.

Among property plays, Ascendas Reit slipped two cents or 0.8 per cent to $2.46, and CapitaLand lost one cent or 0.3 per cent to $3.13.

Commodity counters were on a roll. Golden-Agri Resources rose one cent or 2.4 per cent to 43.5 cents, and Wilmar International put on six cents or 1.8 per cent to $3.36. Noble Group chalked up another day of firm gains as it rose two cents or 4.4 per cent to 47 cents. A report by NetResearch Asia Team noted the rally was driven by market talk that the group has secured a loan of US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) to help pay down debt due in May.

Small-cap stocks were in active play, with property developer OKH Global retaining its spot as the day's most heavily traded. It surged 1.4 cents or 19.7 per cent to 8.5 cents.

It had crashed 80 per cent on Monday, before the firm revealed after trading closed that some 119.8 million shares pledged to its executive chairman and chief executive Bon Ween Foong had been force-sold by financial institutions.

Healthcare firm Cordlife Group dropped 6.5 cents or 4.7 per cent to $1.315, following the sudden news on Monday night that its chief executive Jeremy Yee had resigned to pursue other interests.

Sysma Holdings slumped 8.2 cents or 46.9 per cent to 9.3 cents, though not before crashing to a record low of three cents. The construction services provider got a query from the Singapore Exchange, but said it is not aware of any possible explanation for the unusual activity.

A total of 1.99 billion shares worth $1.23 billion were traded across the bourse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'STI down by a whisker on weak sentiment'. Print Edition | Subscribe