Nov 25, 2013

    Where's the year-end bull market?

    The Straits Times

    THERE is still no sighting of the year-end rally

    that graces the local bourse traditionally, even though major stock markets are intoxicated with a bullish spirit that sends their stock prices soaring.

    On Wall Street, United States stocks rose further into record territory on Friday, with the widely watched S&P 500 Index closing above the 1,800 level for the first time and the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting a new high above the 16,000 mark.

    Even the moribund Shanghai stock market has joined in the fun, after spending much of this year in the doldrums. Last week, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.83 per cent.

    In contrast, the cheery mood seemed to be absent in Singapore. The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) fell 0.89 per cent for the week, as traders remained on the sidelines.

    Some dealers blamed the recent penny-stock debacle for the lack of interest in the local bourse.

    They noted that traders who make a living from the contra trades, which entail buying shares and then selling them before they are due to settle their purchases, are licking their wounds from the penny-stock losses.

    This makes it impossible for them to take fresh positions.

    Foreign fund managers may also be giving local blue chips the skip, as they are lured to markets with a more sexy appeal, such as China and Hong Kong. Thus, it is not surprising to find the STI languishing at the same level from which it started this year.

    But a breakdown of the performance of STI component stocks shows that not every counter is affected in the same way by the lacklustre trading spirit on the local bourse.

    High-dividend-yielding stocks continue to be a big draw with investors as they outpace the STI by a big margin. These included DBS Group Holdings, which has gained 14.1 per cent this year, followed by StarHub, up by 13.26 per cent, and SingTel, which rose 11.4 per cent.

    In contrast, the biggest loser on the STI was motor distributor Jardine Cycle & Carriage, which fell 28.6 per cent, as it was hurt by the faltering Indonesian economy.

    Other Jardine stocks proved to be a drag on the STI too. Jardine Matheson lost 18.1 per cent, while sister company Jardine Strategic fell 12 per cent, and Hongkong Land was down 14 per cent.

    Property giant City Developments was another laggard as it lost 22 per cent, while rival CapitaLand was down 19.2 per cent.

    Still, amid the quiet gloom, analysts see a silver lining ahead.

    DBS Vickers noted in its latest Singapore strategy report that the ingredients are right for an upswing in interest in equities, given the combination of a stabilising economy in China and Europe showing signs of recovery. The prospect of a further delay by the US central bank in scaling back its vast bond-buying programme may also give the equities market another boost, it added.

    In particular, it expects banks which are proxies to the economy to benefit from the anticipated stronger economic growth in Singapore and China.

    It is also expecting growth stocks such as Ezion in the marine sector and Goodpack, which it regards as a proxy to US and Europe recovery, to benefit.

    DBS Vickers also noted that there are stocks which may reward investors with a bumper year-end dividend, such as M1 and Keppel Corp.