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Singapore shares eke out gains, adding 0.1% on Thursday

TRADE tensions and growth worries continued to plague the local equity market but investors took heavily to indicators that the US Federal Reserve could lower interest rates in the near future.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) closed at 3,146.18, up 3.81 points or 0.1 per cent on Thursday.

"The STI had largely oscillated near neutral in the day with the opposing forces of worries on the impact of trade tensions and expected US Federal Reserve support locking prices in," IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted.

It was a mixed bunch elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia and Hong Kong closed higher. China closed in negative territory and Japan was flat. Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea markets were closed.

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In Singapore, trading volume clocked in at 1.14 billion securities, 93 per cent of the daily average in the first four months of 2019. Total turnover came to S$1.54 billion, 1.5 times the January-to-April daily average.

Across the market, advancers outpaced decliners 222 to 168. Meanwhile, the benchmark index had 12 of the STI's 30 components in the red.

With the growing likelihood that the Fed could be looking to a rate cut to sustain the rate of US economic expansion, real estate investment trusts (Reits) saw a hive of activity in the local equity market.

Among the top gainers were CapitaLand Mall Trust, up S$0.11 or 4.5 per cent at S$2.57, and Mapletree Commercial Trust, which gained S$0.06 or 3 per cent to close at S$2.03.

"Reits outperformed the benchmark on rate cut expectations. The falling treasury yield (risk-free rate) has made Reits, which have a higher yield, more attractive in a low-yield environment," CMC Markets' analyst Margaret Yang said.

However, traders told The Business Times that they felt Reits were overbought on the day and had advised clients to take profit on some counters.

Genting Singapore was the benchmark index's most traded stock, with 47.4 million shares changing hands as the counter added 0.5 Singapore cent or 0.6 per cent to 86.5 cents. Market watchers noted that the casino operator's shares were hovering around an eight-month low, and valuations were below five-year averages.

Singtel shares continued to trend upwards, gaining S$0.04 or 1.3 per cent to S$3.25. The telco has been outperforming the blue-chip index in recent weeks as investors continue to shift to more defensively positioned equity portfolios.

The local banks returned from the mid-week break lower. DBS Group Holdings edged down S$0.02 or 0.1 per cent to S$24.25, OCBC Bank dropped S$0.06 or 0.6 per cent to S$10.57 and United Overseas Bank finished at S$23.96, down S$0.04 or 0.2 per cent.