Bulls And Bears

STI ends higher after five sessions of losses

Gains led by banks, oil and gas firms; other Asian bourses decline amid sell-off

The Singapore market bucked the trend among regional markets to close slightly higher yesterday, after five straight sessions of losses.

The Straits Times Index gained 14.74 points, or 0.47 per cent, to end the day at 3,124.65.

Gainers outnumbered losers 208 to 173 as 1.9 billion shares worth $1 billion changed hands, compared with 1.5 billion shares worth $865.6 million on Tuesday.

Financials and oil and gas companies were among the counters that led the uptick.

OCBC Bank added nine cents, or 0.8 per cent, to close at $11.04, while DBS ended 10 cents, or 0.4 per cent, higher at $24.34. United Overseas Bank gained seven cents, or 0.27 per cent, to end at $25.94.

A Bloomberg Intelligence report yesterday noted that the three banks will likely lead South-east Asian peers in new technology adoption, having spent US$1.42 billion (S$1.95 billion) on such efforts last year.

"What started as a business threat from fintechs is likely becoming a driving force for banks' efficiency, pushing them to invest in technology to automate processes, reduce turnaround time and costs," Bloomberg analyst Diksha Gera wrote.

DBS and OCBC recently announced new technological initiatives, with DBS unveiling on Tuesday a Wealth Chat service that allows clients to interact with their relationship managers on WeChat and WhatsApp.

OCBC said on Tuesday evening that it has piloted two artificial intelligence-focused fintech solutions that analyse trade data to improve the detection of anomalies found during audits of trading activities.

Among oil and gas firms, Keppel Corporation closed at $6.50, a gain of 14 cents or 2.2 per cent. Sembcorp Industries and Sembcorp Marine rose by 10 and seven cents to end at $2.94 and $1.81 respectively.

DBS equity research analysts yesterday recommended keeping an eye on the sector, as Brent prices are set to test their year-to-date high after drops in US crude inventories and output forecasts.

"Sembcorp Marine is most sensitive to changes in oil price, followed by Sembcorp Industries and Keppel Corp," noted DBS equity market strategist Yeo Kee Yan.

Overall, analysts expect pessimism to persist in Asian markets in the coming months, as the US and China remain on the brink of a full-blown trade war. Markets closed lower in China, South Korea and Japan, in a slide said to be the longest sell-off in 16 years for Asian stocks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2018, with the headline 'STI ends higher after five sessions of losses'. Print Edition | Subscribe