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Singapore shares advance 0.7% after Fed reaffirms dovish stance

MOST key Asian equity markets continued to build on Wednesday's gains after the US Federal Reserve signalled that interest rates are likely to remain unchanged in the near future, reaffirming its dovish stance.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) saw gains in most sectors except for real estate investment trusts (Reits). The blue-chip index advanced 21.77 points or 0.7 per cent to close at 3,194.67.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, benchmark indices in Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan posted gains. Bucking the trend were Australia and China. Down Under, the ASX 200 was weighed down by financials, closing 43.80 points or 0.6 per cent lower to 6,708.80.

While investors were generally in a risk-friendly mood, there are still a couple of key developments that could sway global markets, including the general elections in the UK. More important to investors in Asia, though, is the Dec 15 deadline for when US tariffs on US$160 billion worth of Chinese imports will take effect, which has left some nervous.

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With Sunday looming, reports suggest US President Donald Trump will meet officials to talk about whether the tariffs will be enforced or delayed. 

AxiTrader's chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes remarked: "But ultimately, the decision rests with Trump himself and that's where the inherent problem lies. President Trump is impossible to predict."

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.12 billion securities, 94 per cent of the daily average in the first 11 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.21 billion, 13 per cent over the January-to-November daily average.

Across the market, advancers beat decliners 201 to 166. Of the STI's 30 counters, eight were in the loss column.

Reits were the main laggards in the market, with investors taking profit on such listings, sending the iEdge S-Reit Index dropping 13.13 points or 0.9 per cent to 1,424.31.

The Fed putting a pause to interest rate adjustments was an expected outcome. Traders noted that Reits had already priced those effects in late-November when Fed chair Jerome Powell first indicated the US central bank would be standing pat on rates.

The local banks ended higher. DBS Group Holdings gained S$0.45 or 1.8 per cent to S$25.50, OCBC Bank added S$0.17 or 1.6 per cent to S$10.85, while United Overseas Bank closed at S$25.84, up S$0.31 or 1.2 per cent.

Among oil and gas plays, Rex International jumped 1.2 Singapore cents or 7.2 per cent to 17.9 cents on the back of higher oil prices after The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said that it is estimating a deficit for 2020.