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Singapore shares end a shade lower ahead of US CPI data

SINGAPORE shares ended a tad lower on Wednesday as traders await the release of a key US inflation data - the consumer price index (CPI) - later tonight.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) opened higher, underpinned by Singapore's better-than-expected economic growth. But, it eventually ended at 3,402.86, down 12.21 points, or 0.36 per cent. About 1.9 billion shares, worth S$1.6 billion, were traded, with 212 gainers to 243 losers.

Before the market opened on Wednesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said Singapore's economy expanded 3.6 per cent last year. This is much better than the government's initial forecast of 1-3 per cent and is the fastest growth rate since 2014.

United Overseas Bank hit S$26.96, before closing at S$26.24, down 60 Singapore cents, or 2.24 per cent from Tuesday's close. The bank reported a 16 per cent rise in its fourth quarter net profit to S$855 million, mainly due to an increase in net interest income, fee and commission income and net trading income. It is also recommending a final dividend of 45 Singapore cents per share and a special dividend of 20 Singapore cents per share.

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OCBC, too, ended off its intraday high of S$12.70, to close at S$12.26, down 31 Singapore cents, or 2.5 per cent. Its four-quarter results beat forecasts with a 31 per cent jump in net profit to S$1.03 billion, from S$789 million a year ago. Its board has proposed a final dividend of 19 Singapore cents per share, an increase from 18 Singapore cents a year ago.

Rival DBS bucked the trend to close at S$28.03, up 40 Singapore cents, or 1.45 per cent.

All three of Singapore's banks posted double-digit profit growth for the fourth quarter, with DBS and OCBC leading the way as their bottom lines rose 31 per cent each.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) too bucked the trend to end at S$11.15, up 53 Singapore cents, or 5 per cent. DBS Group Research and CGS-CIMB Securities Research upgraded their target prices for SIA by at least 13 per cent, after the national carrier posted a 62 per cent jump in net profit to S$286.1 million for the third quarter.

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