A surprise upside on Singapore's quarterly growth digits and overnight gains in Wall Street proved enough reason for cheer, with the key Straits Times Index pushing itself back up over the 3,500 mark after it slipped below the level on Wednesday.
Led by gains in the three banking stocks and ComfortDelgro, the benchmark STI jumped 32.65 points or 0.93 per cent to finish at 3,528.92 yesterday.
Singapore's GDP growth for the first quarter came in slightly higher than flash estimates (4.4 per cent versus 4.3 per cent from a year ago) as the acceleration in services offset the downward revision in manufacturing and construction.
The upward revision of the official growth forecast range for this year from 1.5-3.5 per cent to 2.5-3.5 per cent suggests 2018 growth is more likely to be at least "slightly above" the middle of the previous range, said Nomura Research. Maybank Kim Eng Research raised its GDP growth forecast for the city state to 3.5 per cent for 2018 and 2.7 per cent for 2019 from 3.1 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.
Sentiments were also lifted by the overnight Wednesday showing of US key stock indices that was buoyed by "dovish" minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting, cementing investors' expectations that the central bank will not quicken its pace of monetary tightening.
A rate hike at the June 12-13 meeting seems like a foregone conclusion with implied probability from Fed fund futures showing a 100 per cent chance priced in by markets.
Other Asian markets closed mixed with key indices in Japan, China and South Korea seeing red while Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia posted gains. Malaysian stocks closed lower, rattled by news of the clean-up ahead by the new government, chiefly involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
On the local bourse, turnover was 1.5 billion shares worth $1.2 billion versus Wednesday's 1.4 billion shares of $1.3 billion with 206 counters up and 177 counters down.
The day's top active was QT Vascular, which saw 116 million shares worth $2 million change hands. The stock slipped 0.1 Singapore cent or 5.6 per cent to 1.7 Singapore cents after it resumed trading in the day's second half following a trading halt pending an announcement.
ComfortDelgro advanced 9 Singapore cents or 3.8 per cent to $2.43. In a research note, CGS-CIMB said the stock is the best outperformer so far this year as competition in the ride hailing space eased.