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Singapore shares slide 1.2% amid jitters over trade deal uncertainty

US-CHINA trade headlines continue to cast a pall over Asia's equity markets, which were also done no favours by Wall Street's dour performance on Wednesday.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) may have fared better than its regional brethen on Wednesday, but the opposite held true this time round, with the benchmark dropping 37.57 points or 1.2 per cent to close at 3,192.21 on broad losses.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, markets in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan all closed lower.

AxiTrader chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes acknowledged regional equities were lower across the board but noted "the latest sell-off hasn't likely run deep enough". This, he said, has yet to "entice aggressive bargain-hunting although the markdowns have seemingly abated".

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As it stands, "Asia has been nervous about the state of trade play all week with equities ex-China underperforming," Jeffrey Halley, Oanda's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst, observed.

The region's indices were definitely not helped by news reports that US President Donald Trump is prepared to sign the Hong Kong bill once it passes through Congress. It remains to be seen if Mr Trump will pull out the veto card, but the democracy bill has partisan support, which makes such a course of action a fruitless cause.

As such, the probability of progress towards a "Phase One" trade deal with China - priced in by markets - is slowly ebbing away.

At home, third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) registered a 0.5 per cent growth year-on-year, thanks to a better-than-expected performance by the manufacturing sector.

This may have instilled hopes that the worst is behind us but with trade deal hopes having taken a sizeable hit and Singapore's economy dependent on world trade, Mr Halley noted "it could be a bit too soon to be bringing out the champagne over (Thursday) morning's GDP data".

Trading volume stood at 1.51 billion securities, 31 per cent over the daily average in the first 10 months of 2019. Meanwhile, total turnover clocked in at S$1.24 billion, 18 per cent over the January-to-October daily average.

Across the market, decliners trumped advancers 259 to 132. The blue-chip index had 26 of its 30 counters in the red.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding was the STI's most active counter, closing 2.5 Singapore cents or 2.5 per cent lower at 99.5 cents with 91.3 million shares changing hands. The shipbuilder had faced some selling in the middle of the week, following Monday's 8 per cent jump.

The local lenders underperformed the benchmark. DBS Group Holdings shed S$0.54 or 2.1 per cent to S$25.64, OCBC Bank dropped S$0.18 or 1.6 per cent to S$10.94 while United Overseas Bank closed at S$26.06, down S$0.33 or 1.3 per cent.

Among property plays, CapitaLand fell S$0.04 or 1.1 per cent to S$3.62, City Developments lost S$0.11 or 1 per cent to S$10.50, while Ascott Reit closed flat at S$1.31. The trio announced plans on Thursday morning to redevelop Liang Court into a mixed-use complex.

Meanwhile, agribusiness Wilmar International closed unchanged at S$4.11 after signalling that it hopes to get the nod from authorities to list its Chinese unit in Shenzhen in early-2020.