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Singapore shares close flat after bright start on Wednesday

SINGAPORE equities got off to a bright start, opening 0.8 per cent higher as Washington delayed tariffs on some Chinese imports to December but disappointing Chinese economic data meant that the relief rebound eased off as Wednesday's session wore on.

The Straits Times Index eventually settled at 3,147.60, barely moved from Tuesday, up just 0.87 point or 0.03 per cent. 

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, shares in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea all ended higher but like the local market, early gains trimmed as the session progressed.

US and Chinese officials have agreed to hold trade talks over the phone in a fortnight's time, which may give observers hope that there might be some semblance of progress on trade issues.

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In Singapore, trading volume clocked in at 1.04 billion securities, 87 per cent of the daily average in the first seven months of 2019. Total turnover came to S$1.28 billion, 21 per cent over the January-to-July daily average.

Across the market, advancers outpaced decliners 219 to 195. The blue-chip index had 15 of the 29 counters that were trading, closing in the red. Trading in Yangzijiang Shipbuilding has been halted since last Thursday. 

Singtel, which dipped two Singapore cents or 0.6 per cent to finish at S$3.16, was the benchmark index's most traded stock with 15.3 million shares changing hands. The telco's shares have fallen 4 per cent since posting a 35 per cent drop in net profit for Q1 last Thursday.

The local banks reversed Tuesday's losses. DBS Group Holdings advanced S$0.18 or 0.7 per cent to S$24.99, OCBC Bank finished S$0.10 or 0.9 per cent higher at S$11.10 while United Overseas Bank added S$0.15 or 0.6 per cent to S$25.90.

Wilmar International shed S$0.19 or 4.7 per cent to end at S$3.86. The agribusiness firm reported on Tuesday that Q2 net profit halved, missing street estimates, as the African swine fever in China affected demand for soybean meal, in turn hurting crush margins.

Among cyclically-sensitive semiconductor counters, AEM Holdings added S$0.02 or 1.8 per cent to S$1.11 with 11.2 million shares.

Analysts from Maybank Kim Eng and CGS-CIMB noted that AEM's earnings for the first-half surpassed expectations. That said, CGS-CIMB analyst William Tng pointed out in an Aug 9 report that given "AEM's business remains very much order-driven, some caution may be warranted on FY2020 earnings expectations as its major customer may have front-loaded some of its requirements into FY2019".