Business

Markets perk up as trade tensions ease

Local tech stocks upbeat after Feb factory data, but investors hesitate on ComfortDelGro amid planned Grab-Uber merger

Easing trade war tensions salved Singapore shares yesterday, as the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) broke out of a four-day losing streak.

It gained 26.89 points, or 0.79 per cent, to close at 3,439.35, with the needle hovering fairly steadily through the session around an intra-day average of 3,432.18 points.

Technology and manufacturing stocks also started to feel an uplift from the February industrial production numbers out on Monday.

Electronics provider Venture Corporation was among the day's top gainers, putting on $0.58, or 2.08 per cent, to$28.43.

In the small and mid-cap space, thumbdrive inventor Trek 2000 International saw 10.06 million shares change hands as it closed up by $0.02, or 8.16 per cent, to $0.265.

Valuetronics was a hot stock, with 19.55 million shares changing hands for a gain of 14.58 per cent, to $1.10. Maybank Kim Eng analyst Lai Gene Lih had initiated coverage with a "buy" on March 22, saying that the Hong Kong-based electronics manufacturing services provider was "on the cusp of secular lift-off".

And contract manufacturer Hi-P International rose by$0.03, or 1.26 per cent, to$2.41.

CIMB economist Michelle Chia noted that the previous month's factory output data "exceeded our forecast due to robust demand for semiconductors despite the festive break".

But Allied Technologies lost 0.1 Singapore cent, or 1.72 per cent, to 5.7 Singapore cents, on a volume of 20.35 million shares. The fall came after shareholders approved, on Monday, the precision manufacturer's expansion into e-commerce and digital payments.

Meanwhile, mainboard-listed casino operator Genting Singapore - which said on March 23 that it wants a domicile change from the Isle of Man to Singapore - slid for a third day.

The index counter finished down by S$0.01, or 0.92 per cent, to S$1.08, on a volume of 33.07 million shares.

Investors were also mixed on taxi giant ComfortDelGro, one day after the long-awaited news that its ride-hailing rivals Uber and Grab are to merge South-east Asia operations. It shed $0.02, or 0.98 per cent, to$2.02, on a turnover of 10.81 million shares.

Transport industry watchers said that taxi operators could benefit from easing competition, but have also sounded a warning note over the fate of ComfortDelGro's planned acquisition of Uber-owned Lion City Rentals.

Financial technology firm Ayondo slipped by half a Singapore cent, after its second day on the Catalist board. It closed at $0.255 on a volume of 14.88 million shares - a decline of 1.92 per cent from its initial public offer price of $0.26 a share.

Chinese outlet mall trust Sasseur Reit is slated to start trading today, with units offered at $0.80 apiece.

Across the Asia-Pacific, markets were awash in green, amid relief that the United States and China are in negotiations to stave off a trade war.

Hong Kong was up by 0.79 per cent, and Seoul by 0.61 per cent. Tokyo clocked a rise of 2.65 per cent, helped by relief over a former official's testimony that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not involved in falsifying papers in a cronyism land scandal.

Mr Rob Carnell, ING's Singapore-based chief economist and head of research for the Asia-Pacific, lauded "a more open-minded approach to trade from the US", but cautioned: "Before long, someone is going to think that it may be possible to 'game' the US President's announcements and call his bluff. This could be on trade issues. It could equally be on foreign policy - North Korea, for example."

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BUSINESS & FINANCE