Local shares dip despite regional rally

S'pore the only major Asian market to fall as mood among local investors still uncertain

Local shares drifted lower yesterday after the strong rebound on Thursday, although regional markets continued their rally amid less concern about an impending rate hike in the United States.

The benchmark Straits Times Index slipped 1.92 points or 0.07 per cent to 2,917.91 to end a volatile week 0.27 per cent down. It was a particularly slow session yesterday, with only $695.5 million worth of shares transacted.

Singapore was the only major Asian market that failed to stay in the rally, which started after the US Fed's minutes were released on Wednesday.

Shanghai rose 0.37 per cent, Hong Kong was up 1.13 per cent, Kuala Lumpur gained 0.11 per cent and Tokyo closed up 0.1 per cent.

The Asia-wide gain came despite the 0.02 per cent drop on Wall Street overnight. Investors were still cheering the strong hint by the Fed that rates will start to rise next month.

"The Fed has made it clear that its base case is for a lift-off in December, and if they were to break that, it would be a huge market-moving event. It's been very positive for markets this week," IG strategist Evan Lucas told Reuters in Melbourne.

But the lull at home reflected the still uncertain mood among local investors. Only 10 STI counters gained, with Hutchison Port Holdings Trust up one US cent or 1.9 per cents to 53.5 US cents. StarHub was up five cents or 1.4 per cent to $3.63 while SingTel put on two cents or 0.52 per cent to $3.89.

Noble was the biggest percentage loser on the STI, down one cent or 2.35 per cent to 41.5 cents, while Sembcorp Marine pared five cents or 2.28 per cent to $2.14.

Noble's share price has continued to weaken in the weeks that followed its third-quarter results briefing despite its announcement of a positive cash flow and reduced debt. Ratings agency Fitch Ratings said that Noble has sufficient liquidity to cover its short-term commitments in the next 12 months. This supports Noble's BBB rating, which is still at investment grade.

The market highlight remained the small-cap Spackman Entertainment. The film company was the top active counter yesterday with 58 million shares changing hands. It rose for the third straight day, gaining another 0.6 cents or 4.05 per cent to 15.4 cents.

Since its low at 4.2 cents in late August, Spackman has surged about 266 per cent, but investors should approach with caution, remisier Desmond Leong said.

"I think investors are still giddy over the box office results of its film The Priests. The film has broken even and the street expectations are that Spackman is getting pure profit on ticket sales now," he said. "The shares can still rise going into next week, but we already see signs of slowing down, such as its volume. Investors should keep in mind that a drop may come very soon."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Local shares dip despite regional rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe