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Singapore shares lose 0.2% as downward trend continues

JUDGING from the performance of the Straits Times Index (STI), the effect of unrest in Hong Kong was evidently felt. The benchmark, weighed down by constituents with deep exposure to the territory, eased 7.37 points or 0.2 per cent to 3,231.85.

That said, investors also took the opportunity to take profit on counters that had a decent run-up before Q3 earnings were reported.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, the picture was mixed. Expectedly, Hong Kong led key regional markets in the loss column, dispatching a further 247.77 points or 0.9 per cent to 26,323.69 - a five-week low - after Wednesday's 1.8 per cent dive. Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan were also lower. On the other hand, Australia, China and South Korea ended in the black.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted: "The market remains in contemplation over the US-China trade issue while comments from Fed chair Jerome Powell in his Wednesday testimony to Congress provided little fresh insights to shift prices."

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In all fairness, market watchers including Ms Pan expected Mr Powell's testimony to be a non-event. ING Asia economist Prakash Sakpal said: "Powell remained neutral at his speech while US core inflation slipped, leaving markets to look to Chinese data for direction."

To Chinese industrial production data for October then, which once again showed the impact the long-standing trade scuffle has on the second-largest economy. Last month's reading showed growth slowed sharply, with the 4.7 per cent year-on-year increase below street forecasts of 5.4 per cent. Retail sales too, missed expectations while fixed asset investment, a key driver of economic growth, hit a record low.

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.62 billion securities, 40 per cent over the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.09 billion, just over the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, decliners beat advancers 216 to 189. The blue-chip index had 17 of 30 counters closing in the red.

Investors booked profits on Golden Agri-Resources after it posted Q3 net profit of US$801,000, reversing last year's loss of US$53.9 million in the July-September period. The palm oil plantation owner fell two Singapore cents or 7.5 per cent to 24.5 cents with 65.3 million shares traded, the most among STI counters.

Traders were of the view that it was an opportune time to cash in after the counter, which along with other agribusiness counters, rode the coattails of higher crude palm oil prices in recent days. Golden Agri climbed 29 per cent this month before Thursday's results.

ComfortDelGro shares shed S$0.06 or 2.5 per cent to S$2.32, after posting a 10.8 per cent fall in Q3 bottomline to S$70 million as a deflating taxi business took a toll on earnings. CGS-CIMB and UOB Kay Hian both downgraded their calls on the transport operator to "hold", after taking into account a weaker earnings growth outlook. 

Myanmar-focused Yoma Strategic surged as much as 20 per cent in early trading after Philippine conglomerate Ayala became its second-largest shareholder after taking a 20 per cent stake in the company for US$155 million. Yoma eventually closed five Singapore cents or 15.4 per cent higher at 37.5 cents despite posting a net loss of US$44.2 million for Q2 on Thursday morning.