Investment sentiment in Asia fluctuated this week on the changing outlook for the coronavirus outbreak, which has now killed more people than 2003's Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Stocks dipped on Monday, then staged a strong but short-lived recovery in the next two sessions. Positive sentiment had risen on fewer reports of new cases of the coronavirus in China, as well as hopes of further stimulus measures by the Chinese central bank. But on Thursday, China changed its method of counting cases to include clinically diagnosed patients. It resulted in a ballooning of cases and fatalities, and left investors wondering how long it will take to contain the virus.
"This week's developments underscore the fact that this situation remains highly fluid, and uncertainties continue to abound, especially around whether the global economy could withstand Covid-19's economic toll," said FXTM market analyst Han Tan, referring to the scientific name for the disease.
Yesterday, Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) barely moved from Thursday's close to end at 3,220.03, just 0.06 point lower.
On the week, the blue-chip index advanced 38.55 points, or 1.2 per cent, from Feb 7's close of 3,181.48.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, markets were mixed. Benchmark indices in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan closed with losses. Japan's Nikkei 225 benchmark fell 140.14 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 23,687.59.
In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.34 billion securities, 13 per cent more than the daily average last year. Total turnover was $1.23 billion, 16 per cent over last year's intraday mean. Advancers outpaced decliners 210 to 171, with 11 of the STI's 30 counters ending in the red.
The local banks were all higher. DBS Group Holdings added 0.5 per cent to $25.55, OCBC Bank was up 0.1 per cent to $11.06, and United Overseas Bank closed at $26.25, up 0.2 per cent. Other STI gainers included Thai Beverage, up 0.6 per cent to 78.5 cents, and Singapore Airlines, up 0.4 per cent to $8.62. Both companies reported earnings for the September-December quarter after yesterday's market close.
The sell-off in Singtel shares continued after it posted a 23.8 per cent drop in third-quarter net profit on Thursday. The telco closed 1.8 per cent lower at $3.22. Ground handler Sats also shed 2.4 per cent to $4.43.
Yesterday, upon Russia's Don Agro International's debut on the Singapore bourse, it closed at 24 cents, 9 per cent higher than its initial public offering price of 22 cents.