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Singapore shares fall 0.2% on Monday amid trade deal caution

UPBEAT trade news nudged most Asian markets higher on Monday, although Singapore was the exception as it ended slightly lower on the day.

Singapore's Straits Times Index retreated 5.02 points or 0.16 per cent to 3,220.63. In contrast, South Korea gained 1.02 per cent, while key indices in Japan were up between 0.6 and 0.8 per cent. Australia and New Zealand managed smaller gains of 0.3 and 0.1 per cent respectively.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index surged 1.5 per cent, following peaceful district elections that saw pro-democracy parties sweep more than 75 per cent of 452 seats and gain control of 17 out of 18 district councils.

China's markets saw mixed results, with the Shanghai Composite up 0.72 per cent, while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.44 per cent.

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The trade news involved China's announcement over the weekend that it would raise penalties on intellectual property theft, an issue that had been a sticking point for the US, giving investors hope that the two countries are getting closer to a deal.

FXTM market analyst Han Tan said: "The move suggests that key concessions are being made in order to increase the prospects of a partial US-China deal, which is giving investors another opportunity to capitalise on risk-on trading activity."

Chinese tabloid Global Times quoted experts close to the Chinese government as saying that the US and China are close to a deal and Beijing is committed to continuing talks for further agreements.

However, Stephen Innes of AxiTrader noted: "This type of headline will be that much more believable when both parties schedule a date and venue to put pen to paper on phase one, and for the US to make an official announcement about delaying December tariffs. Such simple steps would go a long way to giving investors confidence in the holiday season."

Turnover on the Singapore bourse was 1.36 billion securities worth S$1.14 billion. Losers outnumbered gainers 202 to 167.

Rex International was the most active counter, gaining 0.6 Singapore cent or 3.45 per cent to S$0.18 on a volume of 171.4 million shares. It was followed by Golden Agri-Resources, which lost one Singapore cent or 4.35 per cent to S$0.22 with 115.5 million shares traded.

RHT Health Trust called for a trading halt on Monday morning. No announcement had been made as at market close.