Business

STI down by 0.06% to 3,414.82

Index weighed down by Singtel, which shed S$0.11 to S$3.64 on a turnover of 30m shares

It was a rough day for local equities, with the benchmark Straits Times Index ending lower for the third straight day. It declined by 2.12 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 3,414.82.

The index was weighed down by constituent stock Singtel, which shed $0.11, or 2.93 per cent, to $3.64 on a turnover of 30 million shares.

Yesterday was the telco's ex-dividend date; it will pay out 9.8 Singapore cents a share, inclusive of a special dividend, on Jan 10, 2018.

The bourse, on the whole, saw just over 1.52 billion shares, worth roughly $1.03 billion, changing hands. Gainers outnumbered losers 224 to 198.

The full day's performance fell short of the morning's optimism, when analysts such as IG Asia market strategist Pan Jingyi wrote that the Americans' tax reform push and record closes in the US last Friday could be "the wind beneath the wings for a Monday rally here in Asia".

Trading on the local stock market opened just after Singapore's latest monthly export figures came in, ahead of forecast, at 9.1 per cent year-on-year growth.

And the good news indeed gave the STI a fillip, moving the needle up to 3,426.62 on opening.

But that was before the caffeine wore off. The index sank to 3,404.73 before noon, then inched its way back up.

CMC Markets Singapore analyst Margaret Yang wrote in a morning note that the index "is likely to consolidate around 3,400 to 3,470... until fresh catalysts kick in".

She reiterated her view that investors cannot count on banking stocks' dividend yield at the moment, as "current valuation is rich".

United Overseas Bank indeed ended the day lower, losing $0.03, or 0.12 per cent, to $26.02.

But OCBC Bank was up by $0.04, or 0.33 per cent, to $12.34, and DBS added $0.15, or 0.61 per cent, to finish at $24.73.

Disposable rubber glove manufacturer Top Glove Corporation - which is set to release its first-quarter results today, for the three months to Nov 30 - put on $0.04, or 1.77 per cent, to $2.30.

But the star of the show was definitely Rowsley, which threw investors into a tizzy and drove up activity when the stock resumed trading after lunch.

The investment company had announced in the morning that it will take the privately held Thomson Medical business off tycoon Peter Lim's hands to the tune of $1.6 billion, paid mostly in stock.

More than 305.8 million Rowsley shares were traded, with the counter finishing up by 2.5 Singapore cents, or 22.5 per cent, at $0.136 - not bad for a mere half-day's work.

Another hot stock was beleaguered commodities trader Noble Group, which was up by 2.5 Singapore cents, or 10.4 per cent, to $0.265 on a turnover of 28.7 million shares.

Its chairman said last Friday that the firm is in talks with creditors to restructure its debt to stave off full-blown insolvency, and expects to soon receive a proposal from them on how to keep its lights on.

Outside Singapore's shores, other Asian markets were more or less buoyed by the rally in US stocks.

Mr Shoji Hirakawa, chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, told Bloomberg that the likelihood of a tax cut for businesses in the US is "allowing investors to anticipate an increase in corporate earnings".

Hong Kong finished higher by 0.7 per cent, and Tokyo added 1.55 per cent at the close.

Shanghai put on a more muted 0.05 per cent, while Seoul was flattish, with a dip of 0.01 per cent.

For full listings of SGX prices, go to http://btd.sg/BTmkts