Bulls And Bears

STI ends in the red amid market uncertainty

Mood likely to remain downbeat as investors wait for clear directions, say analysts

Local shares ended the short trading week in the red as investors remain unsure of the choppy economic outlook.

After Thursday's public holiday, trading resumed yesterday with no signs of a better mood. The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) lost 13.1 points or 0.46 per cent to a new full-year low of 2,832.64 and down 1.63 per cent for the week.

This could be the new norm in coming weeks until there is more clarity on the market's momentum, said remisier Chung Chun He.

"Most investors are waiting on the sidelines because the market is not giving any directions. Meanwhile, we continue to see big funds pulling out," he added.

"If the downward pressure from the economic concerns breaks the sideways movements, the market may plunge further."

Investors were spooked by yet another string of data highlighting economic woes in Asia. Singapore's industrial production fell 7 per cent year-on-year last month while Japan's core inflation dropped for the first time since April 2013.

These figures do not gel with the views in the United States, where Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen, after the 0.48 per cent drop overnight on Wall Street, said a rate hike is still likely soon.

While Tokyo was up 1.76 per cent due partly to investors betting on further government stimulus, Shanghai fell 1.6 per cent and Hong Kong gained 0.43 per cent.

"The (Chinese) market is still weak and the correction trend should have a little further to run," Haitong Securities analyst Zhang Qi told Reuters yesterday.

Half the STI component stocks ended lower, with Jardine Cycle & Carriage closing 63 cents or 2.2 per cent down at $27.96. Wednesday's gainers ComfortDelGro and Singapore Airlines also dropped - ComfortDelgro fell six cents or 2.09 per cent to $2.81, while SIA lost 20 cents or 1.85 per cent to $10.61.

All three banking counters remained in a slump. DBS dipped 13 cents or 0.77 per cent to a 12-month low of $16.77 while OCBC and United Overseas Bank lingered just above full-year lows. OCBC closed flat at $8.91, while UOB dropped 16 cents or 0.84 per cent to $18.81.

"Banking plays are generally considered very safe, and the impending rate hike should have boosted the sentiment. But they are not safe enough against concerns, which implies lower business flows and less loan demand," Mr Chung said.

Golden Agri-Resources was the top-gaining blue chip, up 1.5 cents or 5 per cent to 31.5 cents. Its shares have stayed around its multi-year low of 29 cents. Rowsley remained a standout, rising one cent or 6.21 per cent to 17.1 cents on news of its investments in Britain and Iskandar Malaysia.

The top active, International Healthway Corp, managed to end its 70 per cent drop since two weeks ago, closing 0.6 cent or 6.82 per cent up at 9.4 cents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'STI ends in the red amid market uncertainty'. Print Edition | Subscribe