Bulls And Bears

STI slips to four-month low on trade row fears

Worry over impact of trade dispute sparks steep sell-offs for local tech counters

Investor jitters over the escalating trade war and its impact on the tech sector sent local shares skidding to a four-month low yesterday.

The Straits Times Index (STI) opened 0.5 per cent down and continued to trend lower across the session before closing at 3,160.72, down 22.42 points or 0.7 per cent.

While the benchmark index has given up most of its gains from the year's rally, it is still up 91.96 points or 3 per cent this year.

Total turnover came to 989 million shares worth $1 billion, with losers outpacing gainers 292 to 138. The benchmark index had 26 of its 30 components in the red.

"The relatively low volumes showed that the market adopted a cautious stance," said IG market strategist Pan Jingyi.

Trade row fears were the culprit behind yesterday's declines here and across the region.

Shares in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea closed lower while the Indian and Indonesian markets posted gains, buoyed by local political developments.

"With the US-China trade war baring its teeth, it's becoming clear that at the heart of it all is a technology war," a trader noted.

Experts expect delays in resolving the impasse.

Local tech counters faced steep sell-offs yesterday on concerns about how the trade row will affect supply chains.

AEM Holdings fell 6.5 per cent to 87 cents, Hi-P International finished 6.6 per cent lower at $1.14 while Venture Corp dropped 3 per cent to $14.97.

Oil-related counters took a double blow - from trade issues and increased US inventories.

Rex International fell 7.5 per cent to 6.2 cents and GSS Energy shed 7.8 per cent to 7.1 cents.

The bright spots included ISDN Holdings, up 4.7 per cent to 22.5 cents. CGS-CIMB initiated coverage on ISDN on Wednesday with an "add" call and a target price of 32 cents. Analyst William Tng expects the precision and motion control engineering firm to reap "immense opportunities" from the fourth industrial revolution.

Real estate investment trusts that announced or completed yield accretive property acquisitions this month were also among the gainers.

Frasers Centrepoint Trust, which traded at a cum-dividend and cum-offer basis, closed 1.3 per cent higher at $2.44 and Manulife US Reit added 0.6 per cent to 85.5 US cents.

With sentiment driven largely by the trade fracas, market volatility is likely to show little signs of abating, said Oanda senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'STI slips to four-month low on trade row fears'. Print Edition | Subscribe