Bulls And Bears

STI up 1.6% as upbeat news whets risk appetite

Banks lead gains here; region's markets rise but China ends lower

There was much cheer for traders yesterday due to a confluence of factors supporting risk appetite ahead of today's European Central Bank rate decision.

The Straits Times Index (STI) advanced from the opening bell, eventually settling at 3,204.52, gaining 48.81 points or 1.55 per cent.

It was much the same in the Asia-Pacific as Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea posted gains. China bucked the trend, closing 12.39 points, or 0.4 per cent, lower at 3,008.81.

Markets in Asia started the day digesting news that United States President Donald Trump had fired his National Security Adviser John Bolton over a number of "strong disagreements".

"John Bolton was an uber-hawk who advocated hardline approaches to North Korea, Russia and Iran, among others. The last is particularly significant as his departure could potentially thaw relations with Iran," Oanda Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

On the US-China trade front, investors in search of further reasons to believe the frosty relationship between the two is thawing did not have to look far.

In the afternoon, China announced it had approved tariff exemptions on products from the US ahead of talks next month in Washington, although crucially it did not list corn, soya beans or pork.

China also moved to encourage foreign investment in its financial markets, with global funds no longer needing approvals to purchase Chinese equities and bonds.

The effects of rising bond yields continued to be in play, with more investors making a run for equities.

On a more sombre note, South Korea filed a complaint to the World Trade Organisation against Japan amid ongoing tensions.

In Singapore, trading volume clocked in at 1.45 billion securities, 21 per cent over the daily average in the first eight months of this year. Total turnover came to $1.41 billion, 31 per cent more than the January-August daily average.

Gainers trumped decliners 238 to 157. The blue-chip index had just four of 30 counters in the red.

The local banks continued to do the heavy lifting. DBS Group Holdings advanced 1.2 per cent to $25.25, while OCBC Bank added 1.4 per cent to $11. United Overseas Bank outdid them, finishing up 2.3 per cent at $26.37.

Offshore and marine sector picks also gained, and CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang noted rising crude oil prices, with "the new appointment of Saudi Arabia's energy minister inspiring hope for further production cuts".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'STI up 1.6% as upbeat news whets risk appetite'. Print Edition | Subscribe