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Singapore shares close sharply lower by 2.2%

SINGAPORE shares closed sharply lower as sentiments across the region were hit by worries of a deepening US-China rift, and as Beijing got set to enact a controversial national security law on Hong Kong.

The Straits Times Index fell 55.51 points or 2.17 per cent to 2,499.83. Week-on-week, the index has fallen nearly 24 points or 0.9 per cent.

Key gauges across the region were awash in red, with Hong Kong leading the losses as investors braced themselves for a retaliation from Washington. The risk of a return of mass protests to the streets of Hong Kong added to market jitters.

“Overhanging these are concerns that China and the United States are about to engage in a new round of trade wars. In all honesty, the timing could not be worse,” said OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley.

Rising political tensions between China and the US, China and Australia, and China and Hong Kong have started to push global equities lower ahead of the long weekend in the US and UK, remarked Stephen Innes of AxiCorp.

Some 1.8 billion shares worth S$1.6 billion were traded. Losers trounced gainers; only one counter ended up, with the other 28 down.

OCBC, DBS and UOB lost between 22 Singapore cents and 40 Singapore cents, shaving 23 index points off the STI.

Oceanus Group continued to hog the day’s most active list, with 66 million shares worth S$330,000 traded. It closed unchanged at 0.5 Singapore cent.

UOL Group dipped 19 Singapore cents or 2.8 per cent to S$6.49. OCBC Investment Research issued a "buy" rating on the stock, given its low valuation and strong balance sheet, the headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings fell 3 Singapore cents or 3.2 per cent to 92 Singapore cents. Citi Research said a recovery may be underway for the giant shipbuilder, with workers returning to its shipyards in China. The house has a "buy" rating on the counter, with a target price of S$1.35.

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