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Singapore shares extend gains on Friday, up 2.3% on the week

BUOYED by developments that China sought to have tariffs scrapped in exchange for buying more US agricultural products and local factory output for September defying expectations of a fall, Singapore equities ended the week on a high.

But the day was not without worry as ING Asia economist Prakash Sakpal felt that Asian markets could grapple "for some sense of direction given mixed comments from US Vice-President (Mike) Pence". In a speech on Thursday, Mr Pence declared support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and criticised China's actions against protesters in the territory.

Thankfully at least, the direction in the local market was clear with the Straits Times Index (STI) opening 0.2 per cent higher. The blue-chip index built on the positive open and closed out the week at 3,185.53, up 16.66 points or 0.5 per cent. On the week, the STI is up 71.37 points or 2.3 per cent from last Friday's close of 3,114.16.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, it was mixed. Australia, China and Japan finished higher. Meanwhile, South Korea was flat and Hong Kong  and Malaysia ended lower. Of note was the Nikkei 225 index, which added 49.21 or 0.2 per cent to close at 22,799.81, a one-year high. Equities listed in the Japanese capital were boosted by foreign inflows, thanks to a cheap yen.

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.09 billion securities, 91 per cent of the daily average in the first nine months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$965.23 million, 10 per cent below the January-to-September daily average.

Across the market, advancers trumped decliners 208 to 176. Like Thursday, five of the blue-chip index's 30 counters ended in the red.

For most of the week, talk in the local market revolved around state investor Temasek's partial offer to increase its stake in conglomerate Keppel Corp to 51 per cent. The conglomerate's shares continued to advance on Friday, adding S$0.03 or 0.4 per cent to S$6.91 on 6.5 million shares traded. Keppel has gained 24.7 per cent since trading resumed on Tuesday, its biggest weekly jump in more than a decade.

The offer for Keppel also fuelled hopes that a similar offer could be made in due course for fellow offshore and marine player Sembcorp Marine, which gained S$0.02 or 1.4 per cent to close at S$1.42 on Friday. SembMarine is up 18.3 per cent this week.

While such talk continues to revolve around the market, it took a back seat on Friday, as traders took notice of other developments, making for an action-filled session.

Among property plays, Eagle Hospitality Trust (EHT) shares dived 10 US cents or 15.5 per cent to 54.5 US cents after media reports that the trust's sponsor Urban Commons (UC) could be in danger of defaulting on its lease agreements to run The Queen Mary. On Friday, UC said it was not at risk of losing its lease but that did little to prevent the slide.

After posting its highest quarterly net profit in more than a decade, shares in bourse operator Singapore Exchange leapt S$0.57 or 6.9 per cent on Friday to S$8.85, a multi-year high.

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