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Singapore shares edge up on Friday, down 0.7% on the week

SINGAPORE equities managed turn in a positive performance to close the week out as hopes for a mini trade deal were lifted after a White House economic aide said "enormous progress" has been made. The latest development eased early week concerns that such an agreement could be breaking down.

Following two sessions of losses, the Straits Times Index (STI) opened flat but notched up slight gains to end at 3,238.86, up 7.01 points or 0.2 per cent. On the week, the blue-chip index dipped 25.44 points or 0.7 per cent from last Friday's close of 3,264.30.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, key indices were mostly higher. Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were in the black. After stooping to a five-week low on Thursday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng managed to close flat, instead of registering a new low. Protests in the territory continued as rumours over the imposition of a curfew gained steam.

Broadly speaking, market sentiment this week wavered in rather predictable fashion - one that investors are all but too familiar with by now.

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Market voices on:

"You didn't need a crystal ball to assume a positive trade headline was coming after all, its been RORO (risk-on risk-off) on back of the constant zig-zags in the US-Sino trade headlines for the past two weeks," remarked AxiTrader chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes.

"Like any good showman, White House Economic Adviser (Larry) Kudlow is keeping markets warm, suggesting that US and China are 'getting close' to a deal," said Vishnu Varathan, Mizuho Bank's head of economics and strategy for the Asia & Oceania treasury.

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 2.82 billion securities, two-and-a-half times the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.32 billion, 25 per cent over the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, advancers outpaced decliners 214 to 194. Just six of the benchmark's 30 counters were in the red.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding saw active trading. It rose S$0.03 or 3.1 per cent to S$1 with 62.6 million shares changing hands, the most on the STI. On Wednesday, the shipbuilder recorded a 10 per cent fall in Q3 net profit to 702.3 million Chinese yuan (S$136.3 million) due to a weak market for orders.

DBS Equity Research analyst Ho Pei Hwa noted that in the past two months, the counter was trading below its net cash position of about S$1 per share. This, she said, was "unwarranted, and largely due to the uncertainty over the investigations surrounding the chairman as well as other concerns such as macro slowdown and decline in shipbuilding margins". 

Among other counters that garnered attention was Singtel. After posting its first ever quarterly loss of S$668 million on Thursday on associate Bharti Airtel's provision for sums claimed by the Indian government, shares in the telco dropped S$0.12 or 3.6 per cent to S$3.18. Had Airtel's performance been excluded, net profit would have been up 4 per cent.

Across sectors this past week, agribusiness and tech manufacturers were the standouts. For the most part, counters of firms in these sectors were undeterred by wavering sentiment on trade. The agribusiness firms were boosted by rising crude palm oil prices, with Wilmar International (up S$0.08 or 2 per cent to S$4.08) and Golden Agri-Resources (up S$0.01 or 4.1 per cent to S$0.255) among the sector's strongest performers.

Meanwhile, tech firms were been lifted by earnings that beat expectations as well as hopes that the sector has turned a corner with AEM Holdings (up S$0.02 or 1.1 per cent to S$1.78) and Valuetronics Holdings (up S$0.025 or 3.4 per cent to S$0.765) were some of the sector's top performers.