Bulls And Bears

STI slides as investors take defensive stance

Shares here decline 1.5%, also hit by weak trade in HK, Trump's China comments

Local stocks took a dive yesterday as investors here cleared the decks before the month ended and buckled down for the decision today on United States interest rates.

The defensive stance sent the Straits Times Index (STI) down 49.79 points or 1.5 per cent to end at 3,300.75 and 0.6 per cent lower for the month.

Trading volume was 1.15 billion shares worth $1.73 billion, with losers beating gainers 294 to 150.

Shares here were also hit by weak trade in Hong Kong and US President Donald Trump's dour comments on China prior to the conclusion of trade talks in Shanghai.

While the bar has been set pretty low for progress, there was a level of disappointment at the conclusion of the meeting. VM Markets managing partner Stephen Innes said: "The fact that they couldn't agree on the G-20's soft-peddled concessions is a worrying sign."

July began quite differently from how it has ended for Singapore equities. The month opened with optimism emanating from pledges by the United States and China to resume trade talks following the G-20 summit and expectations of central banks easing interest rates.

As the month wore on, Singapore Exchange market strategist Geoff Howie noted that the strength of the US dollar capped gains in the region and as "expectations for the Fed's expected rate set in and earnings commenced, institutions took to booking profit, especially among real estate investment trust plays".

Genting Singapore, which dropped 0.5 per cent to 92 cents, was the STI's most traded with 42.3 million shares done. The casino operator reports second-quarter numbers after markets close tomorrow.

The banks all ended lower. DBS dipped 0.3 per cent to $26.41, OCBC fell 1.4 per cent to $11.54 and UOB lost 1.5 per cent to $26.40.

Remisier Ernest Lim said: "Some blue chips such as the banks have risen quite a bit in anticipation of good results. As such, it is quite normal for investors to take profit, especially at month's end."

Among key second-line performers, Sheng Siong continued to garner attention after a better-than-expected second quarter. The supermarket chain added 0.9 per cent to $1.16.

Research houses have mostly maintained or upgraded their recommendations on the stock to "buy" while raising their target price on the earnings surprise.

Elsewhere, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea closed lower.

Hong Kong, already hit by eight weekends of protests, closed early for the first time in nearly two years due to an approaching storm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'STI slides as investors take defensive stance'. Print Edition | Subscribe