Business

STI up slightly in roller-coaster ride

Energy stocks get a boost from rising oil prices even amid uncertainty about looming geopolitical developments

Regional traders barely had time to digest Washington's exit from the Iran nuclear deal before Malaysia went to the polls - all events that made for a jittery Wednesday.

Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index dove to an intra-day low of 3,527.26 at 10.14am on a bout of jitters, shrugged off the geopolitical uncertainty to touch 3,561.16 at 3.07pm, and then dipped again. It eventually closed up by 5.37 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 3,548.54.

For the rest of the bourse, gainers beat losers by just 215 to 205. Some 1.69 billion shares changed hands, for a value of S$1.28 billion in all.

ComfortDelGro stayed a hot stock ahead of its tomorrow evening results announcement, with a turnover of 19.56 million shares. The counter continued its ascent, putting on S$0.07, or 3.08 per cent, to S$2.34.

Phillip analyst Jeremy Ng called sentiment "bullish", noting that the share price "has been stuck in a consolidation between the S$2.10 range high and S$1.97 range low since September 2017".

He said: "Expect the bullish momentum to resume for the price to test the immediate resistance at S$2.41, followed by S$2.70."

Meanwhile, fellow Phillip analyst Richard Leow has reiterated an "overweight" rating on the land transport sector, with a "buy" call on ComfortDelGro.

Oil and gas stalwart Keppel Corporation added S$0.17, or 2.12 per cent, to S$8.20, while Sembcorp Marine closed up by S$0.09, or 4.31 per cent, at S$2.18.

As many watchers had predicted, US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of a disarmament agreement with Iran early yesterday, Singapore time. The move is pushing up global oil prices, as fresh export sanctions on Iran would cut crude output.

"While mostly factored into current oil prices, we believe volatility will continue as the response from Trump's European allies, as well as China and Russia, all of whom are signatories to the existing deal, is still uncertain at this point," a team of DBS energy and commodity analysts noted.

DBS chief economist Taimur Baig warned that risks from the US exit could include military conflict or even regime change.

He also cautioned: "While central banks tend to ignore the impact of energy prices in their policy deliberations, higher oil prices will add to inflation, eat into consumer purchasing power and dent the fiscal and current account position of oil-importing economies."

Beleaguered offshore and marine services provider Ezion Holdings topped the stock actives list on a churn of 96.86 million shares, adding 0.4 Singapore cent, or 3.67 per cent, to S$0.113.

Ezion, which was last month thrown a multimillion-dollar life buoy by a Temasek unit, has now said it expects a first-quarter net loss on "delays" in asset redeployment.

Addvalue Technologies saw 24.2 million shares change hands as it gained 0.1 Singapore cent, or 2.56 per cent, to S$0.04.

It has picked a sponsor for the proposed Catalist debut of a wholly-owned subsidiary, in a spin-off that would reward shareholders with free shares in the new listing.

Around the region, the Malaysian bourse was shuttered for the vote, while Shanghai lost 0.07 per cent, Tokyo was down by 0.44 per cent and Seoul shed 0.24 per cent. But Hong Kong ticked up by 0.44 per cent, on a lift from energy stocks.

This evening will bring fresh macroeconomic leads, with US inflation and wage numbers on the way.

The Bank of England is also scheduled to decide on interest rates and to report on inflation.

Its monetary policy committee is expected to keep rates unchanged, but UOB analysts wrote that "this is likely to be a delay, rather than abandonment, of the central bank's plans to gradually normalise monetary policy".

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

BUSINESS & FINANCE