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Singapore shares end flat after virus-induced sell-off on Tuesday

INVESTORS may be brooding over the fast-spreading Wuhan coronavirus but after Tuesday's sell-off in the region, many took the opportunity to "buy on dips", seeking counters trading at attractive valuations.

The result of which saw Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) clinging on to register a slight rebound. It crept up just 1.32 points or 0.04 per cent to close at 3,182.57.

Elsewhere, a number of key Asia-Pacific indices - Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea - posted gains on Wednesday.

Upon returning from the holidays, Hong Kong expectedly bucked the trend, undergoing correction that impacted other markets earlier in the week. The Hang Seng Index shed 789.01 points or 2.8 per cent to 27,160.63. Malaysia was little moved.

Oanda Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley acknowledged that "markets may enjoy one or two days in the sun" following broad sell-offs but noted market participants should tread carefully.

He remarked: "I would be remiss in my role as the voice of reason if I did not caution investors to be wary of chasing what may be temporary, dead-cat bounces. Until we have much more clarity on the controlling of the Wuhan virus outbreak at the very least."

As it stands, the confirmed cases and death toll from the Wuhan virus are rapidly rising. In fact, official infection count in China has surpassed the figure during the Sars epidemic in 2003.

In Singapore, trading volume was 1.67 billion securities, 41 per cent over the 2019 daily average, with much of the activity down to penny play. Total turnover was S$1.06 billion, in line with last year's intraday mean.

Advancers beat decliners 265 to 184. Ten of the benchmark's 30 counters ended in the red.

Viewed as beneficiaries of the outbreak, traders looking for a quick flip continued to add positions on medical groups and rubber glove makers.

Medtecs International maintained its position as the most traded counter on the Singapore bourse. With 233.1 million shares traded, the medical consumables manufacturer added 2.4 Singapore cents or 14 per cent to end at 19.6 cents. Medtecs shares are now more than five times higher than 2019's closing price of 3.9 cents.

Singapore Medical Group jumped S$0.06 or 20.7 per cent to 35 cents while glove manufacturer UG Healthcare surged 12.5 Singapore cents or 50 per cent to 37.5 cents.

Parkway Life Reit, the sole medical-focused property trust in the local market, edged up S$0.03 or 0.8 per cent to S$3.63.

With all current Wuhan virus patients in Singapore housed in public hospitals, UOB Kay Hian analysts Jonathan Koh and Loke Peihao noted those with the capacity to afford private healthcare are likely to seek treatment at private hospitals, which could see improved profitability for properties in the Reit's portfolio, such as those that house Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital.

Electronic services provider Venture Corp, which advanced S$0.24 or 1.5 per cent to S$16.14, was among the standouts on the STI.

Venture Corp shares rose after tobacco giant Philip Morris International - believed to be one of its key clients - signed an agreement with Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation to collaborate on the latter's smoke-free products outside South Korea.