Local shares took their cue from a positive session on Wall Street last Friday but pessimism eventually took hold to send the market lower yesterday.
There were mixed messages across the region: Japan and South Korea posted strong gains, while Hong Kong and China edged lower on growth fears and profit-taking.
The Straits Times Index, which traded as high as 3,339 in the first hour, eased as the session went on, closing at 3,325.86, 6.12 points, or 0.2 per cent lower.
Market watchers said investors were closing positions on blue chips and large-cap stocks before earnings reports are due.
Genting Singapore was among 17 of the blue chips that make up the STI to end in the red.
It slipped 0.5 per cent to 96 cents, with 29.1 million shares changing hands, the most traded on STI.
The counter has shed 11.4 per cent since higher casino entry levies and tax rates, and a $4.5 billion reinvestment plan for Resorts World Sentosa were announced.
The broader market fared better, with winners outnumbering losers 211 to 186 on trade of 1.19 billion shares worth $858.57 million.
CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang said yesterday's lower trading value suggests that "investors are waiting on the sidelines, looking to upcoming earnings of the big US banks".
Banks had a mixed day. DBS Bank closed 0.1 per cent higher at $27.01, but OCBC Bank slipped 0.6 per cent to $11.67, while United Overseas Bank lost 0.3 per cent to $26.61.
Yesterday's trading saw investors moving to a number of defensive plays like real estate investment trusts, as well as telco and transport counters, said Mr Brandon Leu, UOB Kay Hian's vice-president of equities and financial products.
Singtel continued to rally, edging up 0.3 per cent to $3.17 on 19.2 million shares, while ComfortDelGro added 0.4 per cent to $2.63.
Among non-STI counters, Asian Pay Television Trust was the bourse's most traded and one of the day's main gainers. The business trust advanced 21.7 per cent to 15.7 cents on 50.1 million units traded.
Investor interest surged after its trustee-manager said before markets opened that it is undertaking an independent strategic review of the trust and its asset, Taiwan Broadband Communications Group.
Another active counter was luxury timepiece retailer The Hour Glass, which closed flat at 76 cents with 9.9 million shares traded. The bulk of the volume was a 9.72-million-share married trade at 71 cents, a 6.5 per cent discount to yesterday's closing price.