A bearish start to trading left Singapore shares ending in the red yesterday, much like other Asian markets despite further rises in oil prices.
The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) closed down 5.27 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 2,808.32, as a late-hour rally was not enough to offset a poor start at 2,791. It was down 0.36 per cent for the week, and at the lowest point in almost a month.
Profit-taking may be at play on the back of STI's two-day gain between Wednesday and Thursday, with sentiment partly affected by the 0.98 per cent drop on Wall Street overnight. But investors are also keen to pull out ahead of key regional economic data that will hit the news next week.
China announces gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter next Friday, a day after Singapore's own advance GDP figures for the quarter are released.
Moody's Analytics yesterday noted: "China economy continues to grow below potential, resulting in low inflation and overcapacity in heavy industry... Industrial production growth slowed and exports fell over January and February. Further deceleration in top-line GDP growth this year is expected."
Unsurprisingly, Chinese investors did not fancy their chances. Their retreat sent Shanghai down 0.78 per cent yesterday. Hong Kong rose 0.51 per cent, saved by a late rally, but Sydney was down 0.53 per cent.
Back in Singapore, 15 of the 30 STI constituents closed lower. United Overseas Bank shed 22 cents, or 1.17 per cent, to $18.53; DBS Group dropped nine cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $15; and OCBC Bank pared three cents, or 0.34 per cent, to $8.78.
Golden Agri-Resources closed down one cent, or 2.38 per cent, to 41 cents. This came as Malaysian palm oil futures fell yesterday for the fourth straight session this week.
On the other end of the spectrum, CapitaLand Mall Trust put on five cents, or 2.4 per cent, to $2.13; and Sembcorp Industries rose seven cents, or 2.44 per cent, to $2.94.
In a rare positive showing, Sembcorp Marine and Keppel Corp both went up yesterday. SembMarine added 4.5 cents, or 2.94 per cent, to $1.575; and Keppel Corp closed up five cents, or 0.87 per cent, at $5.77, as investors eyed the recovery of crude oil futures Brent to above US$40 per barrel.
Some offshore and marine plays outside the STI also benefited. Ezra Holdings rose 0.1 cent, or 0.98 per cent, to 10.3 cents, with 63 million shared traded - one of yesterday's top actives. Nam Cheong closed up 0.1 cent, or 1.02 per cent, at 9.9 cents.
Croesus Retail Trust closed flat at 82.5 cents, a day after it announced the acquisition of a new mall in Hiroshima, Japan. CIMB analyst Lock Mun Yee likes the move, maintaining her buy call for the trust yesterday with a higher target price of 91 cents. "Hiroshima enjoyed above national average household growth over the past 10 years. There is also a strong resident catchment within a 10km radius of the property."