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Singapore shares claw back early drop to close 0.3% lower on Tuesday

RISK-off sentiments are still prevalent in the market, as sell-offs continued on Tuesday in local and regional bourses even though they retracked some of the losses in the later session.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) opened 1 per cent lower but clawed back early losses to finish at 3,223.71, down 10.57 points or 0.3 per cent on Tuesday. The benchmark index has fallen by 168.58 points or 5 per cent since May 3, the session before US President Donald Trump's tweet about raising tariffs.

Asian markets took cues from Monday's heavy declines on Wall Street after China ramped up tariffs on US goods with effect from June. Market watchers considered Beijing's announcement of an increase in the tariff rate to 25 per cent for US$60 billion of US goods - hours before Monday's US session began - a gentle response to last Friday's tariff hike by the US.

Following Beijing's move, fears were stoked as the US trade office said it was looking to apply tariffs on a further US$300 billion worth of Chinese exports to the US.

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But tensions eased as the session went on, thanks to Mr Trump expressing optimism that trade issues can be resolved and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi saying that both countries have the "ability and wisdom" to reach a mutually beneficial trade deal.

In Singapore, trading volume clocked in at 1.35 billion securities or 7 per cent over the daily average in the first four months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover came to S$1.2 billion, 17 per cent more than the January-to-April daily average.

Across the market, decliners outpaced advancers 232 to 172. Compared to the broader market, broad-based losses were recorded on the benchmark index with 19 of the STI's 30 components ending in the red.

The local banks were mixed. DBS Group Holdings added S$0.10 or 0.4 per cent to end at S$26.10. OCBC Bank dipped S$0.01 or 0.1 per cent to S$11.19 while United Overseas Bank closed S$0.05 or 0.2 per cent lower to end at S$25.13.

CMC Markets' Margaret Yang observed that defensive sectors like telcos, utilities, healthcare and consumer staples outperformed the broader market. Telco Singtel closed one cent or 0.3 per cent higher at S$3.15 while transport operator ComfortDelGro ended five cents or 2 per cent higher at S$2.57. 

However, Ms Yang noted that broad-based selling for most of the session "suggests investors are deeply concerned about the uncertainties surrounding the US-China trade relationship".