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Singapore shares little moved in listless Monday session

THE lack of fresh leads - commonplace towards the end of the year - made for an uninspiring start to the trading week, which itself serves as a reminder that Christmas is just round the corner.

On Monday, Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI), which stayed range-bound, opened with a slight loss but steadily overturned the dip to close at 3,214.00, ekeing out a 1.61-point or 0.05 per cent gain in the process.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, markets were mixed. Malaysia and Taiwan were higher. Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea were little moved. Australia and China posted losses.

Of the lot, China's Shanghai Composite Index fared the worst, falling 42.19 points or 1.4 per cent to end at 2,962.75. Monday's performance was the most the benchmark has lost in a single session in a month-and-a-half.

As it stands, investors will continue to focus on whatever updates emerge from the "Phase One" trade deal between the US and China.

Both sides are averse to playing the role of the Grinch. Washington has stressed a deal will be signed in January 2020 while Beijing said import tariffs on 850 US goods will be reduced from New Year's Day.

"The clear interest in keeping this momentum going would likely keep prices supported in the near term," IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted.

That said, the mid- and long-term outlook remain murky. Agathe Demarais, the global forecasting director at The Economist Intelligence Unit, wrote: "Despite this positive sign, we continue to expect that the US-China conflict will persist in 2020 as it spills over into other areas than trade, such as the financial and tech spheres."

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.32 billion securities, 11 per cent of the daily average in the first 11 months of 2019. Total turnover was S$815.78 million, 76 per cent of the January-to-November daily average.

Advancers edged out decliners 191 to 187. A third of the benchmark's 30 counters ended in the red.

Among STI counters, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding saw heavy volumes, jumping S$0.07 or 6.5 per cent to S$1.14 with 70.7 million shares traded. On Sunday, China's largest non-state shipbuilder said its executive chairman Ren Yuanlin will return to work on Dec 23 after a four-month leave of absence to assist authorities with a confidential probe in Beijing.

Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes The Business Times, was unchanged at S$2.16 after revealing that it is growing its portfolio of purpose-built student accommodation with the acquisition of seven assets in the UK for £411 million (S$739.9 million).

Mapletree Logistics Trust closed flat at S$1.70 on its debut as an STI component.

Among pennies, Ocean Sky International fell 1.1 Singapore cents or 22 per cent to 3.9 cents. Last Friday, the Catalist-listed civil engineering firm inked a deal to buy an office block in Melbourne for A$21.83 million (S$20.4 million), to be funded by a mix of internal resources and bank borrowings.