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Singapore shares rise 0.2% in sleepy pre-Christmas session

WITH the lack of new market developments, the annual pre-Christmas lull was in full swing. Asian benchmarks followed a ho-hum session on Wall Street and were rangebound in a thinly-traded session.

"Admittedly, all was fairly calm in markets. But this of course may be attributed to the lack of interest and liquidity in thin and silent holiday markets," said Vishnu Varathan, Mizuho Bank's head of economics and strategy for the Asia and Oceania treasury.

Even though the Singapore market was open for half a session, the Straits Times Index (STI) managed to produce a decent showing, adding 7.67 points or 0.24 per cent to close Tuesday at 3,221.67.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, Australia, which was also open for half a day, closed higher. Other key regional markets have a full session. At press time, China and Taiwan were trading higher. On the other hand, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea were posting losses.

For what it's worth, investors having little to process over the Christmas holiday is a positive, especially after a year where the US-China trade relationship has dictated market sentiment, which has at times resulted in wild swings in global equity markets.

At present, a US-China "Phase One" trade deal has been confirmed by both parties, with the deal likely to be signed in January 2020.

"But this is merely an affirmation of what we already know, that an in-principle deal, which is only awaiting the legal wording, is imminent. Whereas there are few reasons to believe that optimism about a broader or "Phase Two" deal could emerge in the near term," Mr Varathan wrote in a note to clients.

With the Singapore market open for only half a session, volume and turnover were low. Trading volume clocked in at 597.82 million securities. Meanwhile, total turnover stood at S$388.52 million.

Across the market, advancers trumped decliners 178 to 138. Eight of the benchmark's 30 counters ended in the red.

Among STI counters, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding was the most actively traded. Shares in China's largest non-state shipbuilder edged up one Singapore cent or 0.9 per cent to S$1.15 with 22.4 million shares changing hands.

"Yangzijiang has been on an upward trend since mid-November and with the chairman's return, could be on the cusp of an extended rebound," a trader told The Business Times.

With oil prices rising after Russia said it would cooperate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to deepen output cuts in Q1 2020, several upstream oil and gas (O&G) counters - which are proxies to price movements in black gold - rose. Rex International went up 0.3 Singapore cent or 1.6 per cent to 18.9 cents, and Interra Resources added 0.4 Singapore cent or 4.9 per cent to 8.6 cents.

Meanwhile, shares in offshore O&G contractor Dyna-Mac Holdings jumped 1.1 Singapore cents or 8.3 per cent to 14.3 cents.

Real estate investment trusts (Reits) were mostly higher on Tuesday, with the iEdge S-REIT Index up 4.02 points or 0.3 per cent to 1,426.50.