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Singapore shares close higher with F&B stocks in play

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THE main distinguishing feature of Thursday's session was a play on food and beverage (F&B) stocks that pushed up Yeo Hiap Seng, Thai Beverage, Jumbo Group and Sino Grandness Food. Otherwise, turnover at 1.2 billion units worth S$731.4 million was 63 per cent lower than Tuesday's S$2 billion, although the latter was admittedly inflated by window-dressing of key blue chips (or "portfolio rebalancing").

Next week's US Federal Open Market Committee meeting could provide a short-term trading opportunity, though observers are uncertain as to whether a rate hike would be good or bad for stocks.

If the Fed raises rates, it could signal confidence in the economic recovery that then helps drive stocks. If it doesn't, markets could still rally as it gives risk assets a few more weeks' breathing space.

With investors unsure of what the Fed might do, the Straits Times Index spent Thursday locked in a narrow range, tracking movements in several external markets, mainly the Dow futures and Hong Kong, before ending 4.55 points higher at 2,795.09, its first rise this week. Excluding warrants there were 191 rises versus 173 falls.

The continued rise in shares of F&B firm Yeo Hiap Seng caught the eye, this time when it rose S$0.075 to S$1.56 on volume of 464,400. In two days, the stock has risen S$0.25 or 19 per cent, presumably on privatisation hopes. The company was queried on Wednesday by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and replied that it did not know of reasons why its shares were rising.

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Elsewhere in the same sector, shares of seafood restaurant operator Jumbo Group stood out with a S$0.015 rise to S$0.57 and Sino Grandness surged S$0.065 or 9.4 per cent to S$0.76 on volume of 17.5 million.

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