STI up on better Singapore growth figure

Benchmark index near 12-month high hit just days ago, but can momentum be sustained?

The local market notched up further gains yesterday, amid news that Singapore's economy was not in too bad a shape after all.

The full-year economic growth figure for 2016 came in at 2 per cent, better than the advance estimate of 1.8 per cent.

The Straits Times Index (STI) did not rain on the parade, adding 10.96 points or 0.35 per cent to close at 3,107.65, just a tad lower than the 12-month high of 3,111.63 reached only days ago. For the week, the index was up 0.23 per cent.

This was despite the somewhat lacklustre performance on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average inching up just 0.04 per cent overnight, though it is still on a record-breaking run.

While a string of domestic and foreign market drivers has spurred local sentiment so far this year, it remains to be seen how sustainable the momentum will be.

"The STI has surged over 7 per cent year-to-date, marking it as one of the best performing markets in Asia," CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang said. "Technically, the benchmark index has faced some resistance at 3,100 as mixed corporate earnings drew an unclear outlook of the future.

"As the United States reaches full employment and approaches closer to the Fed's inflation target, a tighter Fed monetary policy is expected to lead to a stronger US dollar in the months ahead. This might worry investors, who potentially have to confront outflows from emerging markets."

Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) was the top performer among the 18 STI gainers, rising 22 cents or 6.47 per cent to $3.62 on 11.1 million traded shares.

DBS Vickers analyst Suvro Sarkar maintained his buy call for STE, with a $3.80 target price, citing its stronger-than-expected performance in 2016. "Higher defence and infrastructure spending in the US, and a potentially stronger US dollar under the Trump administration are also positives for STE, as we believe that most of the group's sales in the US originate from facilities based in the US," he added.

United Overseas Bank, which reported better-than-expected results yesterday, rose 36 cents or 1.73 per cent to $21.18.

Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Industries both ended in the black, perhaps on news that Opec may lengthen its production cut period beyond the initially planned six months.

Keppel closed 11 cents or 1.68 per cent higher at $6.64, and Sembcorp Industries put on three cents or 0.95 per cent to $3.19. Sembcorp Marine, outside the STI, added two cents or 1.29 per cent to $1.565.

Genting Singapore led the 12 STI losers, paring three cents or 2.97 per cent to 98 cents on 17.4 million shares traded.

Thai Beverage fell as investors took profit on its post-result gains this week. It shed 1.5 cents or 1.56 per cent to 94.5 cents on 43.5 million shares done.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'STI up on better Singapore growth figure'. Print Edition | Subscribe