Investors had little to go on yesterday, so they opted to stay on the sidelines ahead of a key United States meeting tomorrow.
The waiting game until minutes from the US Federal Reserve's July meeting are released in a day or two left the local market to slip and give up some of its early-week gains.
The Straits Times Index closed down 13.38 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 3,122.57.
Markets elsewhere were mixed with Australia, Japan and Malaysia falling, but Hong Kong and South Korea posting slight gains.
A lower opening for most Asian bourses surprised few after Wall Street snapped three sessions of gains overnight on concerns about global growth and where US-China trade relations are heading.
"Trading was rather directionless," one local dealer noted.
VM Markets managing partner Stephen Innes said: "With the markets in a constant state of flux these days moving between hot and cold, it's hard to imagine that much open risk taking is going on."
There are reasons to stay wary, noted remisier Ernest Lim, who said markets are "not out of the woods yet", with recent gains likely a technical bounce for oversold shares.
Market players continue to pin hopes on central banks cutting rates to stem a global slowdown.
Trading volume here was 1.05 billion shares worth $1.01 billion, with losers pipping gainers 190 to 182.
Thai Beverage was the STI's most active, rising 3.9 per cent to 92.5 cents on trade of 78 million shares. The food and beverage player remains the STI's top performer this year, up by 51.6 per cent.
Yangzijiang Shipbuilding continued to see sizeable activity since trading resumed last Thursday, closing 0.5 per cent lower at 96.5 cents on 49.7 million shares traded.
The banks all slipped. DBS eased 0.5 per cent to $24.58, OCBC Bank dipped 0.3 per cent to $10.66, and United Overseas Bank lost 0.9 per cent to $24.76.
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes The Straits Times, rose 1.9 per cent to $2.15, while SPH Reit gained 1.9 per cent to $1.09. This follows the Reit manager announcing a $1 billion multi-currency debt issuance programme, where proceeds could be used for acquisitions.
ESR Reit added 2 per cent to 52 cents after Citi Research initiated coverage on the Singapore-focused industrial trust.
Penny stock Synagie gained 5 per cent to 16.8 cents on 19 million shares traded after the e-commerce solutions firm said it would provide brand store management services for Alibaba-backed Lazada's platform across South-east Asia.