Bulls And Bears

STI slips on trade fears alongside regional peers

Inflation data gave US early lift but bull run short-changed by Tillerson sacking

More political tensions in the United States unnerved investors around the region yesterday and helped snap a four-day winning streak on the local bourse.

The Straits Times Index slipped 14.32 points or 0.4 per cent to 3,539.41 yesterday with 1.9 billion shares worth $1.2 billion traded. Losers outnumbered gainers 231 to 182.

Elsewhere, key indices in Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia and Malaysia also dropped.

Benign inflation data in the US gave shares there an early lift but the shock sacking of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "short-changed the bull run", said IG Markets analyst Jingyi Pan.

It left Wall Street down 0.7 per cent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index broke a seven-session winning streak to slip 1 per cent.

Last month's US inflation data was in line with expectations, suggesting there will be the much anticipated three interest rate hikes this year.

Fears over a trade war breaking out also ratcheted up after it was reported that President Donald Trump may slap additional measures on China as punishment for the country's alleged intellectual property theft.

Markets were also digesting crucial data out of China to assess to what extent activity had slowed in February, given the Lunar New Year holidays.

The numbers came in stronger than expected while retail sales growth improved from December but was slightly below expectations.

Local banking stocks were mixed: UOB lost 17 cents to $28.82; OCBC retreated five cents to $13.53; and DBS rose five cents to $29.12.

It was a similar result for the telcos. Singtel lost one cent to $3.40, Starhub fell one cent to $2.43 while M1 closed unchanged at $1.78.

Telco stocks have been under some selling pressure, chiefly on worries of more competition with the entry of a fourth telco TPG with UOB Kay Hian cautioning investors to carefully time their re-entry into the sector to avoid catching "a falling knife".

Noble Group gained 1.3 cents or 8.4 per cent to 16.8 cents after a trading halt in the morning when it confirmed a debt rescue plan.

Boustead Singapore rose three cents to 82.5 cents. The company's substantial shareholder and former deputy chairman Saiman Ernawan sold off his entire stake in the company between March 9 and March 12 at around 76 cents a share.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'STI slips on trade fears alongside regional peers'. Print Edition | Subscribe