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STI jumps 6.1% as US policymakers agree to US$2t fiscal stimulus package

SINGAPORE'S Straits Times Index (STI) registered successive sessions of gains for the first time in three weeks as investors were buoyed by US policymakers' finally agreeing to a stimulus package worth as much as US$2 trillion.

While the news gave bearish equity markets a much needed boost, market activity suggested investors were already expecting the decision to be made. 

On Wednesday, the blue-chip index opened 3.5 per cent higher and advanced further in the afternoon session after news reports confirming the White House and the US Senate have reached a deal for the blockbuster package. The STI finished 143.42 points or 6.1 per cent higher at 2,505.47, with just two of its 30 counters closing in the red.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, equity benchmarks in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan continued to registered strong gains.

Markets may be in a cheerful mood, but strategists remain cautious, given that the total number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise and more countries have declared a state of emergency.

Vishnu Varathan, Mizuho Bank's head of economics and strategy for the Asia and Oceania treasury, felt the enthusiasm was at "odds with the rapid proliferation of lockdown globally, which reflects elevated healthcare risks/concerns".

Likewise, AxiCorp global chief markets strategist Stephen Innes noted: "Ultimately, for risks sentiment to turn back on bright, investors need conclusive evidence of coronavirus infection curves flattening, bringing an end to lockdowns."

With full details of the US fiscal package yet to be revealed, "volatility is likely to remain on overdrive and it will be difficult to imagine a scenario that will see global equities further advance throughout the remainder of the week," said Oanda senior market analyst Edward Moya.

In the local market, the banks built on Tuesday's rally. DBS leapt S$1.21 or 6.7 per cent up at S$19.42, OCBC Bank jumped S$0.58 or 7 per cent to S$8.89, while United Overseas Bank ended at S$20.02, up S$1.22 or 6.5 per cent.

The STI's travel- and leisure-related counters caught some respite ahead Singapore's supplementary fiscal stimulus package with additional measures to help individuals, businesses and households cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

Singapore Airlines surged S$0.61 or 10.4 per cent to S$6.50; ground handler SATS added S$0.36 or 13.2 per cent to S$3.09, while casino operator Genting Singapore gained 5.5 Singapore cents or 9.7 per cent to S$0.62.

Real estate investment trusts (Reits) continued to make big strides, after being heavily sold off last week. The iEdge S-Reit Index, which tracks all Singapore-listed property trusts, closed 93.38 points or 9.1 per cent higher at 1,117.38. The index rose by 17.9 per cent in the past two sessions.

Manulife US Reit was one of the few Reits that dipped on Wednesday. Following a 26-per-cent surge on Tuesday, units in the US-focused office Reit fell US$0.01 or 1.4 per cent lower to US$0.69.

Trading volume in Singapore was 1.87 billion securities; total turnover was S$2.29 billion. Advancers trumped decliners 385 to 122.