Bulls And Bears

STI rises on positive vibes from France, US

At home, focus is on local Big Three banks which report first-quarter results soon

Asian bourses enjoyed another day of gains as the market mood stayed buoyant after the first round of the French presidential election and talk of an imminent corporate tax cut in the United States.

The "Frexit" scenario looks far less likely after centrist Emmanuel Macron emerged from Sunday's first-round vote in pole position. Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump is said to be sticking to his promise to table a massive cut in corporate tax from 35 per cent to 15 per cent this week.

The extremely pro-business move gave Wall Street a boost, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average adding 1.05 per cent overnight.

In Asia, the Straits Times Index (STI) closed 19.90 points or 0.63 per cent higher at 3,163.93, Tokyo rose 1.08 per cent, and Hong Kong added 1.31 per cent. Shanghai steadied after sliding for days, amid fears of a crackdown on shadow banking, to end 0.16 per cent higher.

Still the local market was only moderately active, with 1.47 billion shares worth $1.11 billion transacted in total.

DBS Group Holdings and OCBC Bank remained the top gainers among the 26 STI stocks that closed in the black. DBS added 20 cents or 1.05 per cent to $19.20, and OCBC put on seven cents or 0.73 per cent to $9.71. United Overseas Bank rose six cents or 0.27 per cent to $21.94.

As the banks prepare to release their first-quarter results soon, expectations are high that non-performing loan issues may have peaked and that net interest margins (NIM) are improving - to allow the trio to record good earnings.

But not all are sold on that upbeat premise.

CIMB analyst Jessalynn Chen expects DBS' first-quarter earnings to drop 7.8 per cent year on year, OCBC's profit to fall 4.4 per cent and UOB's profit to dip 0.3 per cent.

Oil and gas woes are not over yet and might continue to weigh on the banks, Ms Chen said in a note yesterday, adding that any improvement in NIM could be marginal as the banks had squeezed prices to compete for market share.

City Developments rose 24 cents or 2.34 per cent to $10.50, and CapitaLand added five cents or 1.38 per cent to $3.67.

Singapore Press Holdings closed two cents or 0.58 per cent higher at $3.45, before announcing that it is diversifying its holdings with the $164 million purchase of a nursing home operator.

Only four STI stocks fell, led by Thai Beverage which dropped 1.5 cents or 1.6 per cent to 92.5 cents on 18 million shares traded.

The market's top active counter was Noble Group, which ended flat at 15.2 cents after 90 million shares changed hands.

Noble received Singapore Exchange approval earlier this month for a share consolidation exercise. It will seek shareholder approval for this at a special general meeting on Friday, alongside its annual general meeting.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'STI rises on positive vibes from France, US'. Print Edition | Subscribe