Markets Insights

STI shrugs off ECB fret to hit 2-year high

Although the European Central Bank did not make any changes to its interest rates last week, its president Mario Draghi fuelled talk of a rollback of cheap European money by saying that policymakers would begin re-evaluating its stimulus in the autum
Although the European Central Bank did not make any changes to its interest rates last week, its president Mario Draghi fuelled talk of a rollback of cheap European money by saying that policymakers would begin re-evaluating its stimulus in the autumn, which could mean as early as September.PHOTO: REUTERS

The index is up 15 per cent so far this year on the back of gains by bank, property stocks

News out of the European Central Bank (ECB) took centre stage last week as far as influencing the markets was concerned.

While the ECB did not make any changes to its interest rates, its president Mario Draghi fuelled talk of a rollback of cheap European money by saying that policymakers would begin re-evaluating its stimulus in the autumn, which could mean as early as September.

He also took note of the euro's recent strength but did not appear to see this as a problem.

Euro bulls took the hint, sending the currency to a two-year high of 1.1682 against the US dollar.

However, some analysts attributed the gain to weakness in the US dollar, as reflected by the dollar index which has fallen a fair bit against a basket of currencies.

They believe there is not yet a clear-cut path towards monetary tightening.

Asked if the nascent recovery in the euro-zone economies could do without the support of easy monetary policy, Mr Draghi's answer was: "We aren't there yet."

To the doves, this suggests that while a tapering of the central bank's balance sheet is on the cards, the act itself is not imminent.

The ECB has not changed its mind on its monetary policy, and remains committed for an extended period to a very accommodative monetary policy stance, said Natixis Asset Management chief economist Philippe Waechter.

The euro's gain hurt European stocks, with Germany's DAX equity index losing 1.7 per cent last Friday.

Asian markets, which were less affected, mostly ended little changed.

The Singapore bourse held its own amid the uncertainty.

Propelled by spurts of blue-chip buying, the Straits Times Index (STI) was lifted to a fresh two-year high last Wednesday when it closed at 3,325.07. The last time the index was higher was on July 24, 2015 when it ended at 3,352.65.

The STI is up 15 per cent so far this year. It is well supported by the three local banks, the big property counters including Hongkong Land as well as Global Logistic Properties and Genting Singapore.

Shares of Genting Singapore shot up 4.5 cents or 4.2 per cent last Friday to $1.125 on news that the Government is making it more onerous for football as well as social and country clubs to operate fruit machines.

According to the authorities, there are about 1,900 jackpot machines operating in 82 clubhouses. These are expected to drop by about a third within two years.

Genting Singapore bulls are betting that diehard jackpot gamblers will be diverted to one of the two casinos here to get their fix.

The week's spotlight, however, fell on Rowsley.

The counter skyrocketed 93 per cent on Wednesday after controlling shareholder and billionaire Peter Lim unveiled plans to inject medical assets - namely, Thomson Medical and Malaysia-listed TMC Life Sciences - said to be worth up to $1.9 billion into the firm. It ended the week up 138 per cent.

Meanwhile, two IPO debutantes encountered contrasting fortunes.

NetLink Trust, Singapore's biggest initial public offering in six years, ended the week at 80.5 cents, a tad below its offer price of 81 cents.

Union Gas Holdings, a provider of fuel products, ended its Catalist debut with a 16 per cent premium to its offer price of 25 cents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'STI shrugs off ECB fret to hit 2-year high'. Print Edition | Subscribe