Bulls And Bears

STI gains 0.3% for the week but trading muted

Subdued reaction to Fed's rate signal as market focus turns to US-China trade talks

Local investors were more preoccupied with events across the globe this week, mainly the United States Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Their attention seemed justified given the Fed caught global markets off guard by its signal on Wednesday of no interest-rate increases for the rest of the year.

Yet that surprise failed to move shares much. Markets in Asia barely reacted despite a minor Wall Street rally as investors turned their attention to next week's round of US-China trade talks.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) responded to the low-key mood by easing 1.55 points or 0.05 per cent to 3,212.1 yesterday but it did at least end 0.3 per cent up for the week.

As had been the trend all week, trading remained subdued. Volumes clocked in yesterday at 825.53 million shares worth $868.61 million. Losers outnumbered gainers 198 to 181.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi attributed the muted trading numbers this week to a "lack of insights and the clouded global outlook".

There were 16 losers among the STI's 30 constituents, including Genting Singapore, which was also the blue-chip index's most heavily traded. It ended 1 per cent down at $1.03, with 20.9 million shares changing hands.

Among tech and semiconductor stocks, AEM Holdings gained 4.2 per cent to $1.24, following news that it had received sales orders worth $174 million for delivery in the 2019 financial year. SGX market strategist Geoff Howie said while AEM is a top 200 stock by market capitalisation, it ranks as a top 30 by traded value or turnover this week.

Another big gainer was property developer Hong Fok, which added 4.3 per cent to 97.5 cents. The early session surge triggered a query by the exchange over "unusual price movements".

After market close, the company said it was not aware of any information not previously announced that could explain the movements.

That said, Hong Fok noted its shares started trending upwards after it released full-year results on Feb 28. The firm has also bought back its own stock several times this month by way of open market acquisitions in line with its share purchase mandate.

Phillip Securities principal trading representative Marcus Toh said investors who have held on to the shares "for the past two to three years would be in a good position to exit". He noted that the stock is still undervalued given that its book value per share is $2.70.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'STI gains 0.3% for the week but trading muted'. Subscribe