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Singapore shares recover on Friday, but lose 0.4% on the week

MOVEMENTS in Asian markets mirrored that of a pendulum, with sentiment across the week constantly swinging from one side to another on dithering feelings over the outlook of a US-China trade deal.

Traders pointed out the region's benchmarks performed similarly to the week prior. This is particularly true of the middle and later stretches, where trade worries hit a low point on Wednesday and Thursday, only to recover on Friday after conciliatory news reports on a trade agreement were released.

The Wall Street Journal's report that China invited US trade negotiators for talks in Beijing saw equities recover though with gains limited by investors' uncertainty over chances of China and the United States striking a preliminary deal soon to end their trade war.

Following two sessions of losses, the Straits Times Index (STI) opened higher before notching up strong gains in the later session to end at 3,225.65, up 33.44 points or 1.1 per cent. On the week, the blue-chip index dipped 13.21 points or 0.4 per cent from last Friday's close of 3,238.86.

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Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, the lights were flashing green, mostly. Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan all posted gains. Bucking the trend was China.

Friday's action was best summed up by Oanda's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley who noted "Asian equities caught a dose of the trade flu at the start of the week and appear to be recovering".

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.30 billion securities, 13 per cent over the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.14 billion, 8 per cent over the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, advancers trumped decliners 235 to 132. Just three of the benchmark's 30 counters were in the red.

With 52.4 million shares changing hands, Golden Agri-Resources was the STI's most active counter. It fell 0.5 Singapore cent or 2.1 per cent to 23 cents.

Investors continued to place considerable attention on Singtel after Indian associate Bharti Airtel indicated plans to raise phone rates. The counter ended seven Singapore cents or 2.1 per cent higher at S$3.33 on 26.5 million shares traded. The telco has gained 4.7 per cent this week. 

DBS Equity Research also upgraded its recommendation on Singtel to "buy" with a target price of S$3.60 on higher expected revenues following Bharti's move to hike prices.

The local lenders were in the black. DBS Group Holdings closed S$0.16 or 0.6 per cent up at S$25.80, OCBC Bank was up six Singapore cents or 0.6 per cent to S$11.00 while United Overseas Bank closed at S$26.30, advancing S$0.24 or 0.9 per cent.

Among real estate investment trusts (Reits), Mapletree North Asia Commercial Trust (MNACT) units edged down one Singapore cent or 0.9 per cent to S$1.14 after Moody's Investors Service lowered the Reit's outlook from stable to negative.

The downgrade by the credit ratings agency comes on the back of uncertainty on MNACT's largest asset Festival Walk after it sustained damage during violent protests in Hong Kong last week. Recovery works on the property are currently being done, while insurers have been notified and claims are being assessed.

With oil prices continuing to reflect sentiment over the likelihood of a US-China mini trade deal, investors picked up counters in the local market's upstream oil and gas players. Rex International jumped two Singapore cents or 13 per cent to 17.4 cents while GSS Energy gained 0.6 Singapore cent or 7.3 per cent to 8.8 cents.