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Singapore shares fall 0.5% on Tuesday after Trump's tariff offensive

BY reimposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium from Brazil and Argentina, US President Donald Trump stole the headlines in a way only he can, leaving regional markets reeling from fears that his trade war offensive has found other victims.

But that did little to affect the rally of Singapore-listed tech manufacturers, which have in recent weeks been riding the tailwinds of a sector bottom-out and subsequent recovery.

These cyclically sensitive counters were also given a boost after official factory data from China saw a reversal of a seven-month contraction in November. Manufacturing figures from South Korea also suggest contraction was slowing.

On Tuesday, UMS Holdings advanced 2.5 Singapore cents or 2.7 per cent to S$0.96 and semiconductor tester Avi-Tech Electronics added 0.5 Singapore cent or 1.3 per cent to 39.5 cents.

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Meanwhile, AEM Holdings, which has Intel and Huawei Technologies as its key clients, closed two Singapore cents or 1 per cent lower to S$1.94.

The counter may have closed in the red but it spent half the session in the black and traded at an all-time high of S$1.99 during the session before investors booked profits following a 138 per cent climb in 2019.

However, that is where most of the positives end for the local market as Mr Trump's latest actions had a grip on investor sentiment, which were compounded by soft factory data from the US.

The Straits Times Index (STI) extended losses from Monday, retreating 14.89 points or 0.5 per cent to close at 3,173.08 on Tuesday.

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.60 billion securities, 20 per cent over the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.26 billion, 29 per cent of the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, decliners trumped advancers 257 to 119. The blue-chip index had 19 of its 30 counters in the red.

Golden Agri-Resources was the STI's most active counter, adding S$0.01 or 4.7 per cent to 22.5 cents with 98.2 million shares traded.

Last week, retail investors were top net buyers of the plantation owner, while institutional investors were top net sellers, offloading their positions after Golden-Agri was dropped from the MSCI Singapore Index.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, benchmarks were similarly thwarted by Mr Trump's latest offensive, which included harsh words for the Federal Reserve for not lowering interest rates to zero. Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea finished lower.

Bucking the trend was China, where the Shanghai Composite Index added 8.89 points or 0.3 per cent to end at 2,884.70, lifted by financials and consumer stocks. Taiwan posted slight gains.