Disappointing export growth kept investors on the back foot yesterday, although local shares still managed to eke out a modest gain.
The Straits Times Index gained 6.85 points to 3,239.64, with 1.6 billion shares worth $1.1 billion changing hands. Losers outnumbered gainers 197 to 188.
The banks were mixed: DBS gained 14 cents to $26.01, but OCBC Bank shed two cents to $11.12 and United Overseas Bank retreated 12 cents to $25.92.
Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings led the actives with 38.8 million shares changing hands. The stock lost three cents, or 3.4 per cent, to 85 cents. The shipbuilder has been buying back shares since June 27.
ST Engineering gained two cents to $3.39, after Monday's news that its aerospace sector had secured new contracts worth about $510 million in the second quarter.
Venture Corp was up 58 cents, or 3.5 per cent, to $17.03 after it announced following Monday's market close that it had issued 52,000 new shares last Thursday. It then announced after yesterday's close that it had issued a further 7,000 shares last Friday.
Mr Jameel Ahmad, global head of currency strategy and market research at FXTM, noted that while Singapore exports were positive for the third successive month in June, the significant drop in growth from 15.5 per cent in May and 11.8 per cent in April is cause for concern.
"Another headline from this data that will catch the eye is that although shipments in four out of Singapore's top 10 markets expanded, shipments to China, Singapore's biggest export market, did decline," he said. "It is... possible that trade war concerns might have weighed on demand from China."
Falling oil prices sent other Asian markets down yesterday, with only Japan and Malaysia closing higher. Brent crude touched a three-month low of about US$72 a barrel on news of supply increases from Libya and the United States' Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) forecast for the world economy was unchanged at 3.9 per cent growth for this year and next, but it warned that global expansion is at risk from the potential escalation of trade tension. IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said the threatened trade tariffs could cause global output to fall by about 0.5 per cent below projections by 2020.
US markets finished mostly lower overnight, ahead of a week of corporate earnings and economic news.
IG market strategist Pan Jingyi said sentiment is oscillating as the IT, healthcare and industrials sectors recorded moderate losses.