Dec 24, 2014

    STI inches up as Asian peers lose ground

    THE local stock market eked out a marginal increase yesterday, amid thinner trading ahead of the typically quiet Christmas season.

    The flatlining here was in contrast to other major markets across Asia, which declined as commodity counters lost ground.

    The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) gained just 1.55 points or 0.1 per cent to end at 3,332.51.

    Trading volumes were also fairly thin, as expected for the festive period. About 978.8 million shares worth $738.9 million changed hands, down from the $876.1 million worth of shares traded on Monday.

    The Singapore bourse largely managed to avoid the hit that several other major Asian markets took yesterday due to falling commodity stocks.

    Hong Kong was down 0.3 per cent and Seoul shed 0.2 per cent, while Shanghai plunged 3 per cent over concerns that its rally had been excessive.

    "Investors are taking profit after the surge recently," said Huatai Securities analyst Zhou Lin in a Bloomberg report.

    Japanese markets were closed for the emperor's birthday.

    "The commodity share rally was always expected to be short-lived," said IG market strategist Ryan Huang, according to Bloomberg.

    "It was not sustainable with fundamentals largely unchanged. Investors are taking the rally as an opportunity to cash out and sell."

    Most of the major commodity stocks retreated here.

    Olam International fell three cents to $2.07, Wilmar International dropped two cents to $3.21 and Golden Agri-Resources shed half a cent to 44 cents. But Noble Group gained 1.5 cents to $1.09.

    Rigbuilders also slipped after major oil producers said they would maintain their output levels even if crude-oil prices were to slide even further.

    Keppel Corp declined 10 cents to $8.76 and Sembcorp Marine fell nine cents to $3.23.

    Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister said on Monday night Singapore time that the producers' cartel, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, will not cut production even if the oil price plummets to US$20 a barrel.

    This led the prices of benchmark Brent crude oil traded in London to sink to slightly over US$60 per barrel yesterday.

    The most active stock was Memstar Technology, with 173 million shares traded. The counter lost 0.6 cent to 1.9 cents yesterday.

    The Singapore Exchange will close early at 12.30pm today and will not be open tomorrow.