STI falls amid weak market sentiment

Analysts forecast uncertainty in the days ahead as losers pip winners 213 to 165

Local shares capped off another messy week yesterday amid mounting trade tensions between the United States and China.

The Straits Times Index fell 0.77 per cent, or 24.8 points, to 3,205.46 - down 68.04 points, or 2 per cent, from last Friday's close - in its second straight week of losses.

Losers trumped winners 213 to 165 on a day when 1.18 billion shares worth $870.56 million were traded.

Analysts said the risk-averse sentiment and uncertainty shrouding the market will not be lifting soon.

FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga noted: "Will the world's two largest economies find a middle ground on trade or is a tension destined to intensify further? This is a question nobody has the answer for.

"And this is why investors are nervous, especially following the spectacular swerve that has occurred over the past two weeks."

Mr Paras Anand, asset management head for Asia-Pacific at Fidelity International, said investors should not be too hopeful for a quick trade resolution but instead expect extended uncertainty.

Banking stocks finished in the red yesterday, with DBS Bank closing 2.6 per cent lower at $25.89 on an ex-dividend basis. United Overseas Bank lost 0.72 per cent to $24.98, while OCBC Bank fell 0.62 per cent to $11.15.

Index constituents Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Sats also sank, following announcements of lower corporate earnings. SIA reported a 28 per cent fall in fourth-quarter earnings to $202.6 million, from $281 million a year ago, on the back of lower operating profit and higher non-operating costs related to SilkAir's refleeting and restructuring.

It sought to assure investors that an order for 31 737 Max jets from Boeing remains intact, despite deadly crashes involving the aircraft. But that failed to give shares a fillip, and they ended 1.06 per cent lower at $9.30. Likewise, Sats, which saw fourth-quarter net profit tumble 23.7 per cent to $49.9 million, lost 2.68 per cent to $5.08.

Among real estate investment trusts, Frasers Centrepoint Trust finished at $2.40, down 2.04 per cent, after closing its private placement equity fund-raising exercise.

The exercise was 2.3 times subscribed at an issue price of $2.382 - the top end of its issue price range of $2.30 to $2.382. Demand came from new and existing institutional and other accredited investors.

Genting Singapore was among the most heavily traded, paring 1.11 per cent to 89 cents on a volume of 32.7 million shares. Thai Beverage added 1.96 per cent to 78 cents, with 17.4 million shares changing hands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'STI falls amid weak market sentiment'. Print Edition | Subscribe