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Singapore shares open higher on Thursday; STI up 0.4% to 3,312.96

SINGAPORE stocks opened higher on Thursday, with the Straits Times Index gaining 11.7 points, or 0.4 per cent to 3,312.96 as at 9.04am. 

This came despite Wall Street stocks struggling for direction overnight, as investors remained cautious about the prospect of a breakthrough in the US-China trade dispute ahead of the G-20 Summit. 

On the Singapore bourse, advancers outnumbered decliners 84 to 34, after about 57 million securities worth S$93.5 million exchanged hands. 

Among the most heavily traded by volume, ESR-Reit was flat at S$0.525, with 10.6 million units traded, while ARA H-Trust was unchanged at US$0.89 with 9.4 million units traded. 

In a research note on Thursday, DBS Group Research highlighted that S-Reits could see a "more gradual climb" henceforth, and are now in a stronger position to pursue growth. 

The brokerage added that its bull call on S-Reits since the start of the year was a profitable trade, with S-Reits delivering a total return of about 20 per cent year-to-date. Its top picks include A-Reit, CapitaLand Retail China Trust and Frasers Centrepoint Trust among others. 

Separately, other active stocks included Venture Corp which gained 1.4 per cent, or S$0.22 to S$16.24, and YZJ Shipbuilding which rose 1.3 per cent, or two Singapore cents to S$1.52. 

Singtel also added 0.3 per cent, or one Singapore cent to S$3.51. This comes after the telco on Wednesday announced that its group's CEO has seen her pay cheque hit a decade low with her pay nearly halved to S$3.5 million, and that the company has doubled down on its digital transformation strategy.

Meanwhile, banking stocks were all in the green in the early morning trade - DBS gained 1.1 per cent, or S$0.27 to S$25.75, UOB added 0.8 per cent, or S$0.20 to S$25.87, and OCBC was up 0.6 per cent, or seven cents to S$11.32. 

Elsewhere in Asia, investors appeared to be staying much on the sidelines as they awaited a key meeting between US and China leaders at the G-20 summit on Saturday. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.01 per cent in very light trade. Japan's Nikkei also added 0.3 per cent, propped up by a pullback in the yen, while Australian stocks eased 0.4 per cent.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted that a "sit tight and wait" approach seems to be the main directive for markets today prior to the Trump-Xi meeting over the weekend. 

"The modus operandi ahead of key event risks, particularly of the geopolitical kind, appears to be maintaining cautiousness. With this in mind, this lacklustre trade for Asia markets may well sustain counting down to when President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping sit together for their bilateral meeting," Ms Pan added.

On Thursday morning, UOB analysts also noted that risk appetite took a dip as market-watchers took concern over Mr Trump's renewed warning on imposing "substantial additional tariffs" against China if there is no progress made on the trade deal at the G-20 in Japan.  

Over in the commodities space, gold traded steady on Thursday, with spot gold mostly unchanged at US$1,408.92 per ounce, while oil fell on Thursday, erasing some of the previous session's strong gains. 

Brent crude futures was down 44 US cents, or 0.7 per cent to US$66.05 by 9am in Singapore, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures retreated 41 US cents, or 0.7 per cent to US$58.97.

Oil prices had jumped by more than 2 per cent on Wednesday and hit their highest in about a month, after US data showed domestic stockpiles last week shrank more than expected, while exports of American crude hit a record high.