Bulls And Bears

STI falls on anxiety over pace of US rate hikes

Weak data from China, Japan and India also contributes to 0.6% drop

It was near impossible for the local market to keep its head above water yesterday, given the feeble lead from Wall Street.

Anxiety rose over the prospect of faster rate hikes in the United States after the much-anticipated testimony of new Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

Then there was weak data from the region. China's gauge for manufacturing activity for last month saw its largest drop since 2011, which was attributed to the Chinese New Year holiday, while Japan's industrial production fell at a faster rate in January and India's factory activity slowed to a four-month low in February.

That all conspired to send the Straits Times Index down 22.45 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,517.94, leaving the market down 0.5 per cent for the month.

All other major regional bourses witnessed a similar pattern, with the key indices in Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia and Malaysia heading south.

While much of Mr Powell's testimony to Congress was within market expectations, his optimism over the US economy provided a hawkish slant, fanning expectations of more aggressive rate rises.

Even so, Maybank FX Research warned against an over-reaction to his testimony: "Inflation is on the uptick but this is in the context of stronger growth outlook.

"The equity sell-off is also unlikely to persist as long as corporate earnings and forward projection remain optimistic."

Focus will now be on the release of the Fed's preferred inflation measure and Mr Powell's testimony to the Senate Banking Committee later today.

Turnover here came in at 2.09 billion shares worth $2.09 billion, with losers outnumbering gainers 293 to 164. Banking stocks once again led the losses with UOB slipping 49 cents to $27.89, while DBS lost 36 cents to $28.70. OCBC dipped 27 cents to $13.06.

Some of the top actives were Genting Singapore, which fell three cents to $1.16 with 69 million shares done, and Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which inched up 0.5 US cent to 36.5 US cents.

City Developments gained three cents to $12.76 following its fourth-quarter results. Net profit fell 23 per cent while revenue rose by 14 per cent.

Cityneon Holdings shed six cents, or 5.5 per cent, to $1.04.

DBS Group Research has a "buy" rating on the counter following what it deemed was a transformative 2017 with the acquisition of Jurassic World: The Exhibition placing the firm on a stronger and firmer growth path.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'STI falls on anxiety over pace of US rate hikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe