Aug 21, 2014

    STI flat ahead of Fed meeting

    SINGAPORE stocks traded within a narrow band yesterday, constrained by an absence of fresh leads, as investors set their sights on key upcoming events in the United States.

    The Straits Times Index inched up 7.22 points to 3,323.65, ahead of last night's release of the United States Federal Reserve's latest meeting minutes.

    Trading volumes were reasonably modest, with 1.7 billion shares worth $876.4 million switching hands.

    "Traders will turn their attention to the Fed minutes later tonight, recalling less hawkish-than-expected minutes in July, which led to a sell-off in the dollar," said CMC Markets analyst Desmond Chua.

    Market players will also be casting their gaze on tomorrow's annual conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole.

    Their attention will be mainly focused on a speech by Fed chairman Janet Yellen in which she will give her view on the outlook for the US job market which is central in determining the future direction of monetary policy.

    As a result, major Asian bourses showed little movement yesterday, with Japan up a mere 0.03 per cent, Hong Kong just 0.15 per cent in front and South Korea only 0.08 per cent ahead.

    Here, 17 of the 30 STI component stocks climbed higher, with nine ending lower and four unchanged.

    Among the gainers was Thai Beverage, which rose another two cents to 67 cents, taking its total gain for this year to a whopping 24 per cent.

    Other blue chips which also enjoyed an upbeat outing included ComfortDelGro, up six cents to $2.54, City Developments which rose 18 cents to $10.02 as well as Singapore Airlines which added 16 cents to $10.04.

    Not to be outdone, all three bank stocks also advanced, with DBS Group Holdings up seven cents to $17.75, United Overseas Bank 17 cents in front at $22.87 and OCBC Bank seven cents ahead at $10.38.

    DBS Group Research noted on OCBC: "We remain positive on the OCBC-Wing Hang deal. Judging from OCBC's previous acquisitions (both banks and non-banks), it has been able to create value over time."

    Neptune Orient Lines jumped the most in more than 11 months after it said it may sell its logistics business, gaining four cents to $1.02.

    Maybank Kim Eng noted that a sale could "unlock value" for NOL and provide it with funds to pay down its high debt as well as reinvest in new ships for longer-term growth.

    The day's most active stock was Mirach Energy, which charged up 3.8 cents or 19.8 per cent to 23 cents with 162.04 million units done.