May 20, 2014

    Flat start to trading week as caution reigns

    IN A forgettable start to the trading week, stock prices hardly budged yesterday, amid volumes that were modest by recent standards.

    The benchmark Straits Times Index closed down 0.16 point to 3,262.43.

    Echoing the slumber in blue chips, mid-caps and penny stocks were little changed as well.

    The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index was up 0.14 per cent, the FTSE ST Small Cap Index toed ahead by 0.05 per cent and the FTSE ST Fledgling Index inched up 0.01 per cent.

    Investors remained wary over the slowing growth in China and the mainland's decelerating property market.

    The market is "still looking for leads", said a note by NetResearch Asia.

    "This will be another uncertain week (due to) the protests in Vietnam and continued political uncertainty in Thailand."

    On the bright side, volumes were modest by recent standards, at 2.13 billion shares worth $1.48 billion.

    Among the shares that showed a bit more life was Singapore Post, which was ahead by 4.5 cents or 3.1 per cent to $1.49.

    The company said on Friday that earnings hit $30.7 million in the fourth quarter, up 17.7 per cent from the $26.1 million recorded in the same period last year.

    It cited rising popularity of online shopping, which boosted delivery services and helped to offset the decline in the use of traditional mail.

    Revenue rose by 5.9 per cent year-on-year to $193.3 million for the three months to March 31.

    Earnings for the full year were 4.8 per cent up at $143.1 million on a 24.6 per cent increase in sales to $821.1 million.

    "Though the group's business transformation will still take time (and perhaps more acquisitions), its initiatives are starting to yield results," said OCBC Investment Research.

    "Meanwhile, SingPost's stock has also been buoyed by investors seeking to park their funds in an environment awash with liquidity. Hence we believe that investors may continue to seek refuge in the stock as long as the dividend yield remains decent.

    "Indeed, at the current price, the forecast dividend yield is decent at 4.4 per cent, and may be attractive to yield seekers."

    OCBC raised its fair value estimate on SingPost to $1.42, from $1.32, as it changed the valuation methodology for the company.

    However, given the limited upside potential, the move helps its "hold" call on SingPost.

    Elsewhere in the region, Tokyo fell 0.6 per cent, Hong Kong dipped 0.04 per cent and Shanghai was behind by 1.05 per cent.

    Kuala Lumpur shares rose 0.2 per cent, easing from an all-time intra-day high, after Malaysia's economic growth came in better than expected in the first quarter.