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STI ends flat on Friday, up 1.2% on the week

INVESTMENT sentiment in Asia ebbed and flowed across the week on the changing outlook of Covid-19 outbreak. The virus has now infected more individuals and led to more deaths than 2003's severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic.

While stocks dipped on Monday, they staged a strong but short-lived recovery in the next two sessions. Sentiment surged on lower reports of new cases in China, where the vast majority of those suffering from Covid-19 reside, as well as hopes of further stimulus measures by the Chinese central bank.

This all changed on Thursday when Chinese authorities started using a new method of diagnosis. It resulted in a ballooning of Covid-19 cases and fatalities. New cases may have fallen on Friday but investors are left wondering just how long it will take to contain the virus.

"This week’s developments underscore the fact that this situation remains highly fluid, and uncertainties continue to abound, especially around whether the global economy could withstand Covid-19’s economic toll," said FXTM market analyst Han Tan.

On Friday, Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) barely moved from Thursday's close to end at 3,220.03, just 0.06 point lower.

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On the week, the blue-chip index advanced 38.55 points or 1.2 per cent from Feb 7's close of 3,181.48.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, markets were mixed. Benchmark indices in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan all closed with losses. Japan's  Nikkei 225 benchmark fell 140.14 points or 0.6 per cent to 23,687.59.

In Singapore, trading volume stood at 1.34 billion securities, 13 per cent more than the 2019 daily average. Total turnover was S$1.23 billion, 16 per cent over last year's intraday mean.

Advancers outpaced decliners 210 to 171, with 11 of the benchmark's 30 counters ending in the red.

Among the local market's blue chips, the local banks were all higher. DBS Group Holdings added S$0.13 or 0.5 per cent to S$25.55, OCBC Bank edged up S$0.01 or 0.1 per cent to S$11.06 while United Overseas Bank finished at S$26.25, up S$0.05 or 0.2 per cent.

Other STI gainers included Thai Beverage (up 0.5 Singapore cent or 0.6 per cent to 78.5 cents) and Singapore Airlines (up S$0.03 or 0.4 per cent to S$8.62). Both companies reported earnings for the September-December quarter after Friday's market close.

The sell-off in Singtel shares continued after it posted a 23.8 per cent decline in Q3 net profit on Thursday. The telco closed S$0.06 or 1.8 per cent lower at S$3.22. Ground handler SATS was another notable laggard, shedding S$0.11 or 2.4 per cent to S$4.43.

Among firms in the second line, Hi-P International shares finished S$0.01 or 0.8 per cent up at S$1.31 despite reporting a full-year net profit decline of 20.4 per cent to S$80.3 million on Thursday due to pricing pressure. 

Friday saw the debut of Don Agro International on the Singapore bourse. The Russian agri and dairy firm - listed on the Singapore Exchange's Catalist board -  closed at S$0.24, 9 per cent higher than its initial public offering price of S$0.22. 

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