Bulls And Bears

S'pore stocks flat ahead of key US data

Traders still digesting US Fed chairman's 'transient' inflation trajectory: Analysts

Singapore shares were flat yesterday, following another weak US session overnight, as investors turned cautious ahead of US jobs data.

The Straits Times Index (STI) tumbled at the open but regained its footing later in the day. It ended the day lower by 0.03 per cent, or 1.04 points, to 3,392.29.

Over this week, the benchmark added 35.34 points, or 1.05 per cent, from last Friday's close of 3,356.95.

Decliners edged out advancers 191 to 174, with close to 760 million shares worth $1.01 billion changing hands.

"Global risk appetite has turned more sober post-FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) as traders digested (US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome) Powell's 'transient' inflation trajectory and are awaiting tonight's key US non-farm payrolls, unemployment and wage data," OCBC Bank analysts wrote in a client note.

OCBC Bank's counter was one of the benchmark's worst performers yesterday. Its shares fell as much as 2.55 per cent to $11.83 in the morning, and closed at $11.96, down 1.48 per cent.

The bank's insurance arm, Great Eastern, posted higher first-quarter earnings compared with a year ago. Citi analyst Robert Kong suggested this could provide potential upside to OCBC, which reports first-quarter results next week. It would contrast with the fourth quarter in 2018, when OCBC's profits were dragged down by a fall in earnings contribution from Great Eastern.

Another index heavyweight, United Overseas Bank, had its shares slide 0.29 per cent to $27.77 despite reporting higher net profit for its first quarter of this year. The bank said net profit rose 8 per cent to $1.05 billion, from $978 million for the year-ago period. But it revealed that Singapore home loans were flat quarter on quarter, hit by last year's property cooling measures.

On the other hand, shares of mainboard-listed Cordlife surged almost 20 per cent yesterday morning, prompting a query from the Singapore Exchange. When Cordlife called for a trading halt at 12.55pm, its shares were up 16.09 per cent to $0.505.

CapitaLand's shares also rose 1.98 per cent to $3.61, although the property developer's first-quarter earnings missed expectations.

OCBC Investment Research is maintaining its "buy" call on CapitaLand. "We believe CapitaLand will also increase its focus on its funds management platform and continue its capital recycling activities to spur higher return on equity for its shareholders," said analyst Andy Wong in a report.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore stocks flat ahead of key US data'. Print Edition | Subscribe