Feb 26, 2014

    Market waits, with one eye on US

    LOCAL shares finished virtually flat amid a quiet session yesterday, despite a key Wall Street index hitting a new high.

    The Straits Times Index (STI) dipped 2.22 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 3,103.62.

    Dealers said the mood was fairly muted with a lack of buying conviction due to mixed signals from key regional bourses.

    Trading volumes remained relatively modest, with 2.1 billion shares worth $971.4 million changing hands.

    A broker said: "Investors are still shying away from the local market. It has been a quiet start to the year."

    Investors could also be awaiting key United States economic data out later this week before taking fresh positions.

    The closely monitored American numbers include gross domestic product growth figures on Friday, plus those on consumer confidence, durable goods orders and initial jobless claims.

    There certainly seems to be plenty of confidence in the US in the run-up to the data releases, with the S&P 500 index hitting an all-time peak overnight before slipping at the close.

    "The bullish sentiment for US stocks is back. Tapering, which caused volatility and shook investors' confidence, has now been cast aside as investors are assured that fundamentals are sound," said IG Markets strategist Kelly Teoh.

    "The Asian equity markets have generally lagged behind the US."

    But the upbeat momentum created by Wall Street was seen only in some markets when Asia woke up.

    Japanese stocks jumped 1.44 per cent and South Korean shares rose 0.81 per cent, but Hong Kong equities dipped 0.32 per cent and Shanghai counters slipped 2.04 per cent.

    Here, 13 of the 30 STI component stocks ended higher, with the same number finishing lower and four unchanged.

    Sembcorp Marine was in the spotlight, having announced quarterly earnings on Monday. It slipped five cents to $4.04.

    DBS analyst Janice Chua noted: "We believe this set of results, margin recovery and on-schedule Brazilian projects should restore confidence in the stock. Stock price has been under pressure after four quarters of disappointing results."

    In contrast, there was joy for commodity counters, with palm oil giant Wilmar International adding nine cents to $3.48 and Noble Group gaining a cent to $1.005.

    The day's most active counter was Hankore Environment, which closed unchanged at 12.3 cents with 275.6 million units done.