CERTIFICATE of entitlement (COE) prices for passenger cars were flat in Wednesday's bidding exercise - the first for September - as buyers stayed away, partly because of the Hungry Ghost festival, but mostly because they believe premiums should be much lower than they are now.
Category A, for cars below 1,600cc or 130 hp, fell S$409 to S$57,089, while Cat B, for cars above 1,600cc and 130 hp, slipped S$39 to S$62,101.
Cat E, the open category which currently tracks Cat B, inched up S$9 to S$61,010.
Elsewhere, Cat C, which is for goods vehicles, rose S$300 to S$46,801 and Cat D for motorcycles climbed S$400 to S$6,512.
The small movement in car COE premiums was all the more unusual, given that it has been three weeks since the previous tender.
The usual gap between bidding exercises is two weeks; a longer interval allows for more orders to be collected, thus boosting COE prices.
But that had not been the case in recent weekends. Showroom traffic has been slow, said Nicholas Wong, the general manager of authorised Honda distributor Kah Motor.
He speculated that the current Hungry Ghost month, the seventh month of the lunar calendar, could be the cause. As some Chinese do not like to conduct business during this period, it usually affects order taking and car registrations.
But Mr Wong believed the main reason is the recent increase in Cat A and B premiums.
Prospective buyers are holding back because "everybody is waiting for a big drop".
"But we know it won't happen in the short run," he added. "And it won't be possible with an open bidding system. So it will always go up and down, like a roller coaster."
Over at a luxury dealership, its managing director said the current sentiment among buyers is that premiums are still too high, despite the bigger COE quota.
Buyers feel that premiums should be about S$10,000 lower than what they are now, he said: "So if they don't see a big fall in price, they are not going to buy; they will wait it out. That's why prices have stagnated."
Although the Hungry Ghost month ends on Saturday, the managing director does not expect to see a business spike next week.
He said: "There will not be a mad rush unless there is a big drop in the COE premium."