By Anita Gabriel
SINGAPORE - Shares recorded their fifth straight day of losses yesterday on the back of Wall Street's soft overnight showing.
The downbeat mood left the key Straits Times Index down 27.4 points or 0.8 per cent to 3,341.3 on Thursday with only five out of 30 index stocks making gains.
The sell-off on Wall Street was driven by energy and some consumer stocks.
Most other Asian markets held up well as oil prices firmed. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.5 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.6 per cent while the South Korean Kospi inched ahead 0.7 per cent. China's Shanghai Composite closed flat.
Traders also continued to worry about the prospects of the United States tax reform plan as well as the pace of Federal Reserve rate hikes.
ING forecasts two Fed rises next year. "The markets are sceptical about more than one hike. While it will be data-dependent, we think the Fed is broadening out the reasons for tightening policy, with references to loose financial conditions and rich asset valuations," it said in a note.
As far as global growth goes, however, it appears to be less of a worry. In fact, this year's story has been "straightforward and hugely reassuring" for financial markets.
HSBC chief Asean economist Joseph Incalcaterra, noted: "Growth, for the most part, surprised on the upside, but inflation on the downside. Bonds, equities, and everything in between, rallied as a result."
Banking stocks led Thursday's losses with DBS retreating 27 cents or 1.1 per cent to $23.34. UOB shed 18 cents or 0.7 per cent to $24.70 while OCBC fell 10 cents or 0.9 per cent to $11.45.
ComfortDelGro was also among the top losers, falling eight cents or 3.8 per cent to $2.01.
The counter has gained 4.5 per cent since it released third-quarter results last Friday but KGI Securities analyst Joel Ng told Bloomberg that there was no basis for the jump as earnings were dragged by muted performance of its taxi business.
Singtel fell three cents or 0.8 per cent to $3.66. It was the third most active counter for the day with 41 million shares worth $149 million changing hands.
Meanwhile, Noble Group gained for the second straight session, this time climbing 1.1 cents or 5.5 per cent to 21 cents.
After Wednesday's market close, the commodity trader said it was reorganising its activities for the rare earth and special ores and metals markets under the umbrella of two wholly-owned units to capture opportunities from new markets.
Darco Water Technologies slipped four cents or nearly 7 per cent to 54 cents. The water treatment specialist said it was raising $900,000 through a placement of 1.5 million shares at 60 cents each.