Shares slide ahead of ECB meeting, STI closes one point down

The Straits Times Index ended down 0.05 per cent to 2,809.12 on March 10, 2016.
The Straits Times Index ended down 0.05 per cent to 2,809.12 on March 10, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares ended a smidgeon lower as traders turn cautious ahead of the ECB meeting where hopes of fresh stimulus measures are anticipated.

The benchmark Straits Times Index ended down 0.05 per cent or 1.31 points to 2,809.12, weighed down by Keppel Corp, which shed 1.7 per cent or 10 cents to S$5.90, as oil prices pulled back from above US$41 (S$56) a barrel due to a supply overhang outweighing demand.

Bank counters also pressured the market, with DBS Group dipping 0.5 per cent or eight cents to S$15.15 and OCBC losing 0.3 per cent or three cents to S$8.70. Global Logistic Properties sank 1.6 per cent or three cents to S$1.845, while Singtel shed 0.3 per cent or one cent to S$3.76.

Investors are sidelined ahead of the policy update from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, where he is expected to reveal a series of additional easing measures in an effort to boost sagging eurozone inflation.

Most economists expect the bank to push the interest rate it pays on commercial bank deposits further into negative territory and to expand or extend its asset-purchase programme.

"We are hoping that the ECB would expand its asset buying program to stocks and ETFs instead of just bonds," remisier Alvin Yong said.

But investors remained cautious after Mr Draghi disappointed markets in December with a smaller-than-expected package of easing measures.

Meanwhile, a bout of profit-taking sent oil related penny play Ezra Holdings, which dipped 1.7 per cent or 0.2 cents to 11.8, with 509.5 million shares traded.

The stock has been among the most actively traded this week on market talk of a possible takeover bid for its subsea services division EMAS Offshore. Both had said they were reviewing options to "enhance shareholders' value" and holding discussions regarding "possible transactions" after being queried on Tuesday by the Singapore Exchange over unusual volume movements.

Shares of Catalist-listed IEV Holdings surged a whopping 78 per cent, or five cents to 11.4 cents, with 166.1 million shares traded. But the offshore and energy firm said it wasn't aware of any possible explanation for the trading activity.