Bulls And Bears

STI dragged down by profit-taking on banks

Below-forecast earnings from Thai Beverage, CDL & ST Engineering also add to index's fall

Singapore shares ended lower, as investors took profit after weak United States retail profits stoked fears that American consumers were not spending enough to power domestic economic growth.

The Straits Times Index fell 0.48 per cent or 15.82 points to 3,255.29, dragged down by the banks and below-forecast earnings from Thai Beverage, City Developments and ST Engineering. For the week, the index finished 0.8 per cent higher.

"The banks are technically overbought and due for a pullback," CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang said.

DBS Group Holdings fell 1.2 per cent or 25 cents to $20.68, UOB shed 1.6 per cent or 38 cents to $23.59, and OCBC dipped 0.1 per cent or one cent to $10.55.

Phillip Securities analyst Jeremy Teong maintained a "reduce" call on OCBC with an "unchanged target price of $8.48". "We saw unfavourable loans volume... suppressing net interest income growth, and these conditions may continue to persist this year."

The index was weighed down by Thai Beverage, which lost 3.3 per cent or three cents to 88.5 cents, with 57.8 million shares traded. DBS Group Research maintained a buy call on the counter, even though second-quarter results were "a dampener".

Thai Beverage cited subdued sales arising from the mourning period for the late Thai king, but this should normalise over time. It also expects stronger contribution from its associates F&N and Frasers Centrepoint in the second half of the year.

City Developments lost 2.5 per cent or 27 cents to $10.58, after posting "somewhat below-forecast" results. OCBC Investment Research said its buy call and fair value estimate of $10.50 are under review.

Also weighing on sentiment was Noble Group, which crashed for a second straight session following several analysts' downgrades after it posted a surprise huge loss for the first quarter. Further pressuring the stock were nagging questions over its ability to secure sufficient funding from its key banks, and downbeat comments by outgoing chairman Richard Elman that investors should not expect a return to profits any time soon.

"You can smell blood, and sharp traders know a short when they see one," a trader said. Noble shares fell 24 per cent or 21 cents to 66.5 cents, with 125.8 million shares traded.

Fallout from Noble sparked selling in other penny plays, dealers said. Shares of Blackgold Natural Resources fell 4.3 per cent or 0.6 cent to 13.4 cents; and Chasen shed 3.5 per cent or 0.4 cent to 11 cents.

Other heavily traded pennies included Disa, which lost 3.2 per cent or 0.1 cent to three cents, with 176 million shares on trade. MDR dropped 14.3 per cent or 0.1 cent to 0.6 cent, with 123.1 million shares traded. Bucking the downtrend was Wilmar International, which jumped 9.6 per cent or 33 cents to $3.76, on trade of 42 million shares after posting robust first-quarter results.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'STI dragged down by profit-taking on banks'. Print Edition | Subscribe