Bulls And Bears

Fed rate hints fail to lift regional markets

Traders still weighed down by global growth concerns as Fed trims outlook

Hints that United States interest rates would stay put this year gave regional investors a jolt of confidence - but it hardly translated into much on the share market by the time the closing bells rang.

Part of the problem is that concerns about global growth would not go away, with the US Federal Reserve trimming its outlook while President Donald Trump's warning that Washington may maintain tariffs to ensure Beijing's compliance with any trade deal did not help either.

The Straits Times Index (STI) managed a gain of 5.99 points or 0.19 per cent to 3,213.65, as did bourses in Australia, South Korea and China while Malaysia ended lower. Japan was closed.

Trading here clocked in at 1.03 billion shares worth $947.97 million, with gainers outnumbering losers 192 to 170.

QT Vascular, a balloon catheter specialist, closed flat at 0.6 cent but was the most active with 83.5 million shares traded, likely down to speculative trading.

Genting Singapore was the STI's most traded, ending 3 per cent up at $1.04 with 53.9 million shares done.

A trader noted that even though the casino operator has "limited growth avenues at present, it has a stable revenue stream and lacks competition".

The Fed's easy-does-it stance on interest rates sent the greenback lower and pushed oil prices to a five-month high, yet the effect was mixed for energy counters here.

Rex International added 1.2 per cent to 8.2 cents, KrisEnergy closed flat at 5.3 cents and GSS Energy dipped 0.9 per cent to 10.4 cents.

A weaker US dollar also translated to lower commodity prices. UOB Kay Hian's Mr Brandon Leu said this is "likely the reason we are seeing large interest in agri-stocks".

Agri-business counters Olam International gained 0.5 per cent to $2.01 and Golden Agri-Resources rose 1.9 per cent to 27.5 cents.

While the greenback has weakened in recent weeks due to anticipation of a dovish Fed policy, DBS Group Research said in a note that it "does not think the dollar will keep depreciating from here".

Chuan Hup Holdings rose 11.9 per cent to 37.5 cents - one of the big gainers yesterday. The firm has proposed a special dividend of nine cents a share to be paid out after it disposes of its stake in PCI Limited.

Challenger Technologies jumped 6.6 per cent to 56.5 cents after Digileap Capital made a cash exit offer at 56 cents a share.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2019, with the headline 'Fed rate hints fail to lift regional markets'. Print Edition | Subscribe