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Singapore blue chips climb after MAS's surprise easing and Q1 GDP beat

BANKS and other blue chips on the local bourse got a boost after the central bank unexpectedly eased the appreciation of the Singapore dollar and flash estimates for Singapore's first-quarter economic output figures beat estimates on Thursday morning.

The three local banks all saw their shares gain between 1 per cent and 3 per cent in early trading.

The benchmark Straits Times Index also continued to gain ground, climbing to 2,920.79 - 1.1 per cent up - as at 11.18am after having opened 0.9 per cent higher at 2,916.2 points.

As at 11.18am, most of the STI component stocks were showing gains.

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DBS was up 1.8 per cent or S$0.238 to S$15.75 on 4.6 million shares traded and OCBC rose 1.6 per cent or S$0.15 to S$9.27 on 7.1 million shares traded. The biggest percentage gainer among the three was UOB, which advanced 2.5 per cent or S$0.49 to S$19.72 on 3.5 million shares changing hands.

Energy-related counters were in the spotlight, with offshore services provider Ezra Holdings occupying the top spot in terms of trading volume. Ezra was flat at S$0.107 with 49.2 million shares traded as at 11.18am.

Conglomerate Keppel Corp gained six Singapore cents to S$6.12 on 4.8 million shares traded.

The stock moves came after a surprise currency easing by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the release of flash estimates for first-quarter economic output from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), both on Thursday morning before the market opened.

MAS unexpectedly said it would move to a neutral policy stance of zero per cent appreciation of the S$NEER (Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate) band, though it stressed that this was not a depreciation of the currency, and "only removes the modest and gradual appreciation path".

The flash figures from MTI indicated Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 1.8 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter ended March 31, 2016, above economists' estimates of 1.6 per cent growth.