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Singapore shares buck regional trend on Monday, STI down 0.5%

ON Monday, investors in Asia had to process mixed newsflows from the weekend, such as last Friday's unexpectedly strong US jobs report and Sunday's poor Chinese export figures.

That said, Asian equity benchmarks in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan managed to get the week off to a positive start though gains were capped on worries the effect of the US-China trade scuffle has had on the world's second largest economy.

Missing from the group was Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI). The local benchmark struggled for direction, spending most of the session hovering around last Friday's close before slipping late to close at 3,179.82, a decline of 14.89 points, or 0.5 per cent.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong was little moved and Malaysia was lower.

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In Singapore, trading volume stood at 965.37 million securities, 86 per cent of the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Total turnover clocked in at S$906.24 million, 84 per cent of the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, decliners trumped advancers 239 to 126. Of the STI's 30 counters, 23 were in the red.

Golden Agri-Resources continued to see heavy trading. With 103.4 million shares changing hands, the plantation owner was STI's most active counter, ending 0.5 Singapore cent, or 2.3 per cent higher, at 22.5 cents.

Even though Golden Agri has been dropped from the MSCI Singapore index and will be replaced on the STI by Mapletree Logistics Trust (down S$0.02 or 1.1 per cent to S$1.72) from Dec 23, traders said volumes are likely to remain elevated on the back of rising crude palm oil (CPO) prices, which have lifted other agribusiness players in recent weeks.

Other plantation owners were mostly lower on Monday including Bumitama Agri (down S$0.005, or 0.7 per cent, to 72.5 cents) and Wilmar International (down S$0.04, or one per cent, to S$4.10). Citi Research believes investor interest on Wilmar will "pick up further as news flow on its Chinese IPO progresses further".

Among property counters, Europe-focused real estate investment trust (Reit) IReit Global were unchanged at 79.5 cents after striking a deal with Tikehau Capital and City Developments (CDL) to acquire four freehold office buildings in Spain for 133.8 million euros (S$201 million).

"With the group aiming to accelerate its asset recycling plans going forward, we see IReit as an alternative avenue for CDL to divest some of its UK offices, in addition to CDL Hospitality Trusts for its non-core hotels in Europe, Asia and US," Citi Research said. CDL (down S$0.07, or 0.7 per cent, down to S$10.55) is Citi's top pick among Singapore property developers for "its redevelopment potential and undemanding valuations".

Meanwhile, dormitory developer Centurion Corp's shares dropped S$0.01, or 2.3 per cent, to 43 cents after revealing that it will acquire a property in Nottingham used as student accommodation for £15.1 million (S$26.98 million).