Fragile sentiments continue to hit market

Second straight day of declines as jittery investors react to last week's volatility

The local market lost ground for a second straight day, in line with region-wide declines, reflecting the still-fragile sentiment among investors after last week's volatility.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) fell 38.67 points or 1.32 per cent to close at 2,882.77 yesterday after a sell-down in the final hour. About 1.75 billion shares worth $1.03 billion changed hands.

The drop suggested that the rebound late last week might be short-lived, as the STI continues to struggle, following the 16 per cent slump from July 20 to Aug 24, when fears over China's slowdown and Beijing's sharp devaluation of the yuan caused a global rout.

CMC Markets analyst Nicholas Teo cautioned: "This is a rebound not to buy in, but to trim position on. We are seeing what could be the new market norm, a landscape with many moving parts including the rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

"The weak China figures, Bangkok's bombing and the protests in Kuala Lumpur are not giving reasons for funds to stay in Asia either."

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.69 per cent overnight, as investors were jittery over the speech by Fed vice-chairman Stanley Fischer, who gave further indications that the Fed will raise rates this month.

In Asia, sentiment was further dampened yesterday after fresh official data showed that China's manufacturing activity last month fell the most in three years.

Shanghai shed 1.23 per cent, while Hong Kong lost 2.24 per cent and Kuala Lumpur pared 0.22 per cent. Tokyo fell the most in the region, down 3.84 per cent.

Against this backdrop, most of the blue chips here were hammered - of STI's 30 component stocks, 27 dropped and three went sideways.

Commodity plays, lifted on Monday by an improvement in oil prices, returned to the doldrums.

Noble Group was the top losing counter, closing 2.5 cents or 4.59 per cent lower at 52 cents.

Olam International sank 8.5 cents or 4.11 per cent to $1.985, but Maybank Kim Eng analyst Wei Bin raised its target price to $2.15, on last Thursday's news that it will partner Mitsubishi via a placement of 332.7 million new shares to raise some $915 million.

"The partnership offers both the chance to collaborate across geographies and products and strengthen their relationship," Mr Wei said.

Meanwhile, Noble received a vote of confidence from shareholder Prudential, which raised its holding in the embattled firm from 8.76 per cent to 9.01 per cent yesterday.

Outside the STI, Ezra Holdings was the most active counter on the market, with more than 266.5 million shares changing hands.

It fell 0.2 cent or 1.54 per cent to 12.8 cents. This cut short Ezra's upward trajectory since Aug 24, following the offshore and marine company's agreement to sell up to 50 per cent stake in Emas AMC to Chiyoda Corporation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Fragile sentiments continue to hit market'. Print Edition | Subscribe