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Focus on Budget but S'pore shares extend fall as Covid-19 fears linger

THE focus of the day was on the delivery of the Singapore Budget 2020 but support measures aimed at tackling the economic impact of Covid-19 had a muted effect on benchmark listings most affected by the outbreak.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled a special S$4 billion package to help companies with their cash-flow and to keep jobs. More help went to the tourism, aviation, retail, food services and point-to-point transport services sectors, harder hit by the crisis.

Among counters in the local benchmark - the Straits Times Index (STI) - aviation-focused listings were mixed. SATS traded lower in the early session but edged up to close flat at S$4.48 after Mr Heng said assistance would be provided to ground handling agents at Changi Airport. 

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines, which finished S$0.15 or 1.7 per cent lower at S$8.51, barely flinched after the government revealed rebates for aircraft landing and parking charges at Changi. That said, stock performance of the national carrier was weighed down by the decision to temporarily cut flights from now until May.

News of the government's announcement of a 10 per cent property tax rebate for Singapore's two integrated resorts (IRs) did little to Genting Singapore's share price - it closed unchanged at 88.5 Singapore cents. Over the weekend, the owner of Resorts World Sentosa pulled out of its bid for the Osaka IR licence.

With investors continuing to focus on developments surrounding the spread of Covid-19, the STI extended its slide for a fourth day, closing 16.37 points or 0.5 per cent lower at 3,196.63. The benchmark index is down 0.8 per cent this year.

Index heavyweights like the local banks ended lower. DBS Group Holdings fell S$0.21 or 0.8 per cent to S$25.27, OCBC Bank eased S$0.04 or 0.4 per cent to S$10.97 while United Overseas Bank ended at S$25.81, down S$0.24 or 0.9 per cent.

Singtel dropped S$0.04 or 1.3 per cent to S$3.17. Shares in Singapore's largest telco have lost 6 per cent since it reported Q3 earnings last Thursday.

Notable laggards in the second line included tech manufacturers.

Among them, Hi-P International fell S$0.03 or 2.3 per cent to S$1.28 after Maybank Kim Eng analyst Lai Gene Lih reiterated his "Sell" recommendation on the company and slashed its target price to S$1.00 due to a weaker FY2020 outlook.

Meanwhile, Valuetronics Holdings shed 1.5 Singapore cents or 2 per cent to S$0.72 after RHB Research downgraded the contract manufacturer to "Neutral" and lowered its target price to S$0.76.

Trading volume in Singapore was 1.44 billion securities, 22 per cent over the 2019 daily average but total turnover came to S$1.04 billion, just shy of last year's intraday mean.

Across the broader market, decliners outpaced advancers 227 to 192. The blue-chip index had 17 of its 30 components closing in the red.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, benchmarks in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all closed lower. Malaysia closed flat and China was slightly up.