Mar 25, 2015

    STI rises amid Wall Street uncertainty


    AN AGONISINGLY boring session yesterday finished with the Straits Times Index just about managing to stay in the black - up 3.13 points at 3,413.26 with tepid volume of one billion units worth $1 billion, and with the entire market recording 239 rises versus 173 falls.

    Brokers said an uncertain Wall Street probably contributed to the ho-hum session, as did an indifferent Hong Kong.

    In Monday's session in the United States, major indices traded higher throughout the session but ended weaker on the day - exactly the same pattern exhibited in Hong Kong yesterday.

    The STI's positive closing, however, suggested that the US market would probably close higher yesterday.

    "Tradeable newsflows have been thin," remarked a dealer. "For now, nothing much is happening to get people excited or even scared."

    STI stocks which featured in the top 20 actives list included Noble Group, Genting Singapore and Singtel.

    The largest drag on the index came from a 21-cent drop in UOB to $22.79 on volume of three million shares traded.

    Penny stocks which enjoyed some play included IHC, SIIC Environment and Pacific Andes.

    Elsewhere, Indonesian stocks eked out small gains yesterday amid a rise in the rupiah and selective buying in large caps, while other South-east Asian stock markets were flat to weaker after a measure of Chinese factory activity came weaker than expected.

    Jakarta's composite index ended the day 0.2 per cent higher after two straight days of modest falls. Banking shares were among those actively traded, led by Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Negara Indonesia.

    The rupiah rose to its highest in more than two weeks amid uncertainty over the timing of US interest rate hikes and after Indonesia's Finance Minister said he would work with the central bank to strengthen the currency.

    Broker Bahana Securities cut its rating on the market to neutral, with an end-year target of 5,550, and continued to recommend that clients adopt a more defensive strategy in consumer staples and telecommunications.

    Thai stocks fell for a third day and Vietnam was down 0.6 per cent, its second straight loss. Malaysia rose 1 per cent, its first in three days.

    The Philippines was down 0.2 per cent on the day. It is still up 8.3 per cent on the year and is South-east Asia's best performer, thanks to its economic outperformance.