Mar 23, 2016

    No carrots for punters to nibble at

    SINGAPORE shares eased further yesterday - though only by a whisker - amid a lack of positive leads globally and worries over the Brussels bombings.

    The Straits Times Index (STI) was nearly flat, finishing 0.04 point lower at 2,880.65, despite opening 4.3 points higher in the morning.

    Markets elsewhere in the region were again mixed. Japan led gains as it resumed trading after a holiday on Monday in good spirits, rising 1.9 per cent as the yen remained weak. Both Seoul and Kuala Lumpur climbed 0.4 per cent.

    But Shanghai slid 0.6 per cent to post its first loss in eight days, as the market assessed new guidelines on pension products amid growing concern over comments by People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan on speculative capital.

    The sell-off weighed on Hong Kong, which dipped 0.1 per cent. Sydney and Taipei each pared 0.3 per cent.

    While markets in Asia have rebounded in recent weeks with crude prices seeing more stability, investor sentiment remains flimsy, given lingering concerns over China's slowing economy and the oil supply overhang.

    "We're at a key junction where we need to see fresh news to push the market higher," Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG, told Bloomberg.

    "Central banks have put in place measures that helped subdue market volatility. However, the market is at risk of going into some sort of consolidation given the extremely low volatility."

    In the United States, Wall Street was little changed, inching up just 0.1 per cent overnight.

    The STI's performance was dragged down in part by DBS Group Holdings, which dropped 20 cents or 1.3 per cent to $15.55.

    Property plays also put up a poor showing, with Ascendas Reit slipping two cents or 0.8 per cent to $2.46, and CapitaLand losing one cent or 0.3 per cent to $3.13.

    Commodity counters were on a roll. Golden-Agri Resources rose one cent or 2.4 per cent to 43.5 cents while Wilmar International put on six cents or 1.8 per cent to $3.36.

    Commodity trader Noble Group chalked up another day of firm gains as it rose two cents or 4.4 per cent to 47 cents on strong volumes. A report by NetResearch Asia Team noted the rally was driven by market talk that the group has successfully secured a loan of US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) to help pay down debt due in May.

    Small-cap stocks were in active play, with property developer OKH Global retaining its spot as the day's most heavily traded. It surged 1.4 cents or 19.7 per cent to 8.5 cents on a heavy volume of 286.8 units.

    The counter had crashed 80 per cent on Monday, before the firm revealed after trading closed that some 119.8 million shares pledged to its executive chairman and chief executive Bon Ween Foong had been force-sold by financial institutions.

    Healthcare firm Cordlife Group dropped 6.5 cents or 4.7 per cent to $1.315, following the sudden news on Monday night that its chief executive Jeremy Yee had resigned to pursue other interests.

    Sysma Holdings slumped 8.2 cents or 46.9 per cent to 9.3 cents, though not before crashing to a record low of three cents in the afternoon. The construction services provider received a query from the Singapore Exchange, but has said it is not aware of any possible explanation for the unusual trading activity.

    A total of 1.99 billion shares worth $1.23 billion were traded across the bourse.