Business

STI falls again as traders seek direction

Stocks put on a generally sluggish performance, with a lacklustre turnover of 1.43b shares worth $1.04b

As the week hit its mid-point, the local bourse continued to suffer the ill-effects of earlier events, which hit it like a persistent hangover on the morning after.

The Straits Times Index (STI) sagged again yesterday - this time slipping by 9.6 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 3,394.87.

With the US' tax-cut package mostly a done deal, traders around the world were left in want of a pick-me-up.

So the bourse as a whole also moved sluggishly on a lacklustre turnover of 1.43 billion shares worth $1.04 billion in all. Losers outnumbered gainers 237 to 161.

Investment company Rowsley continued to dominate the roster of most-heavily traded stocks. It saw a churn of almost 200.18 million shares after news broke that it would pay $1.6 billion to acquire healthcare businesses from controlling shareholder Peter Lim.

The counter, which had been on track for another day of mild decline, ticked up at the eleventh hour to put on 0.2 Singapore cents, or 1.54 per cent, finishing at $0.132.

But Rowsley had, in fact, overtaken another stock late in the day on the high-volume front.

All through the morning, the top-traded list was headed by Singapore Reinsurance Corp. Sing Re put on 1.5 Singapore cents, or 4.84 per cent, to $0.325, with close to 116.31 million shares changing hands.

It was a surprise appearance by a staid counter that was last traded on Dec 11, on a thin volume of 70,000 shares.

The firm has not filed any announcements with the Singapore Exchange since its third-quarter results on Nov 13, when it posted a net profit of $1.93 million - a year-on-year rise of 8 per cent - for the three months to Sept 30.

CASH OFFER

Another gainer was United Industrial Corporation, which rose by $0.01, or 0.3 per cent, to $3.33.

This came after the independent financial adviser recommended on Tuesday that shareholders of its Singapore Land unit accept a mandatory unconditional cash offer.

But UOL Group, the offerer, fell by $0.05, or 0.57 per cent, to $8.80.

Meanwhile, the benchmark STI has had to contend with several stubborn albatrosses around its neck.

Not least a bother was telco Singtel, which shed $0.03, or 0.83 per cent, to $3.58, on a volume of 47 million shares.

Another constituent stock that fared unfavourably was Thai Beverage Public Co Ltd, which dipped by $0.01, or 1.05 per cent, to $0.94, with 10.68 million shares changing hands.

CIMB analysts had yesterday morning downgraded the counter with a "hold" call, while wringing their hands over the potential for debt problems in ThaiBev's bid for a majority stake in a Vietnamese brewer.

Two out of the three local banks ended the day lower, too. DBS Bank shed $0.13, or 0.53 per cent, to $24.58, while United Overseas Bank lost $0.07, or 0.27 per cent, to $25.95.

But OCBC Bank gained $0.11, or 0.9 per cent, to $12.36.

Investors in the Republic may perhaps console themselves with the knowledge that yesterday's loss was largely universal.

Hang Seng was down by 0.07 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite ended lower by 0.27 per cent amid a year-end liquidity squeeze from Chinese lenders.

The Nikkei 225 rose by a modest 0.1 per cent, but Ms Harumi Taguchi, principal economist at IHS Markit in Tokyo, told Reuters that investor concern is growing over the US tax reform.

"Even if it's passed, it will take some time to know whether or not it will have an impact on the economy," she said.

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