With Australia and Hong Kong as well as parts of Europe still on their Easter break yesterday, trading in the Singapore market was rather thin and lacked clear direction.
Investors remained wary as the world's two largest economies remained locked in a looming trade war.
China slapped extra tariffs of up to 25 per cent on about US$3 billion (S$3.9 billion) worth of US imports, hitting 128 American products ranging from pork to steel pipes. The tariffs took effect yesterday.
It was in response to the US imposing duties on imports of steel and aluminium from China. The US tariffs also apply to several other countries.
Top US and Chinese officials have been holding talks amid escalating trade tensions.
Yesterday, China's Caixin Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for last month came in below consensus estimates at 51, a four-month low. The PMI was 51.6 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that signals contraction.
"Overall, the manufacturing PMI reading in March showed that demand was not as strong as expected, leading to lower willingness of manufacturers to produce and restock," said Mr Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, a subsidiary of Caixin.
Meanwhile in Singapore, the PMI rose again last month, hitting 53, its 19th straight month of expansion.
The Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management said: "This latest PMI reading was mainly attributed to faster growth in factory output, as well as higher new orders and new exports."
After opening at 3,439.04, the Straits Times Index closed at 3,430.76, up 2.79 points from last Thursday. Volume was light, with 824.5 million shares traded. There were 185 gainers to 226 losers.
The Singapore Exchange ended three cents lower at $7.34 after Japan Exchange Group said it would sell its 4.95 per cent stake in the local bourse progressively over a period of about three years. Japan's Corporate Governance Code requires listed companies in Japan to examine and justify the reason for holding shares of other listed companies for reasons other than pure investment purposes.
Shares of the three telcos rose following a BMI Research report which said the liberalisation of Singapore's energy market would provide strong opportunities for telecoms operators to provide metering and billing solutions.