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Singapore shares close higher on Friday

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OVER the course of the past five days, trading in the Straits Times Index (STI) was directed mainly by external considerations, namely oil prices, the Dow futures and China. All three rarely moved in tandem with one another, making for a volatile week here - the STI rose on Monday and Tuesday, fell on Wednesday and Thursday, then rebounded on Friday.

The net outcome was that the index recorded a loss of seven points or 0.3 per cent over the week at 2,649.38 - even with Friday's 45.98 points jump.

Perhaps more importantly, the majority of daily dollar volume was done in the 30 STI members. On Friday when 1.2 billion units worth S$1.08 billion were traded, S$688.5 million or 64 per cent came from index components.

Over the week, banks led the index on its travels as analysts grappled with the sector's latest earnings figures. Most have concluded that this year will be tough for banks, given the weakness in the offshore and marine sector that will necessitate higher write-offs and provisioning.

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Macquarie Warrants (MW) in its Friday daily said Macquarie Equities Research (MER) thinks there is little reason to be bullish on banks this year.

"At the early stage in the credit downcycle, banks are often in denial and behind the curve even when the asset quality reality has already turned," said MW, quoting MER.

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