Bulls And Bears

STI down despite better sentiment

News that economy posted highest growth rate since 2014 fails to lift market

Good economic figures gave local investors some cheer yesterday, but the mood was not enough to keep local shares in the black.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) opened higher, underpinned by better-than-expected gross domestic product numbers, but it eventually ended at 3,402.86, down 12.21 points or 0.36 per cent.

About 1.9 billion shares worth $1.6 billion were traded, with 212 gainers to 243 losers.

Trading in Asia was mixed with investors more concerned about the long weekend coming up than taking positions.

"As many Asian markets - China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - will be closed for the Lunar New Year celebrations by the end of this week, traders may prefer to stay on the sidelines or take some hedging measures to protect their portfolio," said Ms Margaret Yang, a market analyst at CMC Markets here.

DBS Group Research expects the STI's correction to halt at 3,330 to 3,350 points. It tips a more gradual recovery and is sticking to its year-end estimate of 3,688 points and the more "optimistic" objective of 3,800.

The better sentiment here came after news that the economy posted its highest growth rate since 2014. Expansion hit 3.6 per cent last year, trumping the 2.4 per cent growth in 2016 and exceeding the initial government projection of 1 per cent to 3 per cent.

The Trade and Industry Ministry expects 2018 GDP growth to moderate from 2017's and come in slightly above the middle of the forecast range of 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

Trade also staged a turnaround last year with growth reaching a seven-year high. Non-oil domestic exports grew 8.8 per cent last year, after a 2.8 per cent decline in 2016.

On the corporate front, OCBC Bank hit an intraday high of $12.70 before closing at $12.26, down 31 cents. Its fourth-quarter results beat forecasts with a 31 per cent jump in net profit to $1.03 billion.

United Overseas Bank also succumbed to jitters, closing down 60 cents to $26.24. The bank reported a 16 per cent rise in fourth-quarter net profit to $855 million.

DBS Group Holdings bucked the trend, closing at $28.03, up 40 cents.

Singapore Airlines also ended higher, up 53 cents, or 5 per cent, to $11.15. DBS Group Research and CGS-CIMB Securities Research upgraded their target prices for the carrier by at least 13 per cent after it posted a 62 per cent jump in net profit to $286.1 million for the third quarter.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'STI down despite better sentiment'. Subscribe