Business

ST Index still riding high despite Friday dent

Gravity always wins, quoth Radiohead. Well, local shares got the wind taken out of their sails yesterday after fresh worries arose over economic growth in the United States, weighing the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) down by a relatively non-trivial 0.7 per cent.

The drop of 20.54 points to 3,117.03 spelled an end to a two-day winning streak for the bourse, with losers outnumbering gainers 269 to 208 or about nine down for every seven up.

But that, at least, was a tad more movement compared to a lull early in the week around the Singapore Government's release of its 2017 Budget on Monday, which some traders may have seen as uninspiring.

Phillip Capital said in a note on Thursday that though the Government said it would carry forward $700 million worth of public infrastructure projects to start in FY2017 and FY2018, the value of the contracts may be too small for larger construction firms.

Though the upward momentum was not to last, the index was still cushioned by the gains it had made on Wednesday and Thursday, largely due to gains in the three local banks.

The midweek push in the banks, which commentators saw as largely inexplicable and sought to explain by pointing to potentially rising interest rates, had driven the STI to as high as 3,137.57 on Thursday - its highest level since August 2015.

As a result, the STI ended yesterday about 0.2 per cent higher from the previous week despite uncertainty over the US economy, after the US Treasury Secretary said fiscal stimulus effects on the economy this year may be limited.

Along with the index, turn­over on the local bourse also rose over the course of the week with Thursday notching a high of 3.5 billion units worth $1.7 billion traded, which was the highest in nearly 10 days.

Local shares got the wind taken out of their sails on Friday after fresh worries arose over US economic growth.

That more or less continued yesterday, where about 3.19 billion shares worth $1.43 billion in total changed hands. That level of volume represents a significant improvement from the $1 billion or so that would have been typical a year ago.

The average price of units traded yesterday worked out to $0.45, which made sense given that the spotlight was firmly on penny stocks by the end of the week. In particular, commodities trader Noble Group - once part of the STI basket of blue chips but now fallen from its former glory - saw heavy trading yesterday.

The previous week, the beleaguered counter had drawn attention after news that China's state-owned company Sinochem may take a strategic stake in Noble.

But yesterday, it was in the news for a different reason: its nemesis Iceberg, a research outfit that has been a relentless thorn in Noble's side, posted yet another a damning report on the group. Noble shares fell 16.7 per cent or $0.045 to $0.225 in the session with 623.4 million shares changing hands.

Catalist-listed medical clinic operator Healthway Medical Corporation was runner-up in the actives list but somewhat far behind Noble, with 217.1 million shares traded.

The third most traded stock was digital safety firm DISA, formerly known as Equation Summit, which has been a familiar name at the top of the actives table for some time.

melissat@sph.com.sg

This article appears in The Business Times today. For full listings of SGX prices, go to http://btd.sg/BTmkts