Markets await Trump-Xi summit

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STI dips marginally while other key Asian bourses mostly rise, despite latest North Korean missile incident

Ah, the smell of napalm in the morning. Or, in Wednesday's case, a North Korean ballistic missile fired into the sea at 6.42am Seoul time, just one day ahead of a summit meeting between the leaders of the United States and China.

The local Straits Times Index (STI) never stood a chance, though it did rally slightly after taking a hit in the earlier part of the session.

After falling to about 3,159 points in the early afternoon, it managed to claw its way up to finish the day 0.1 per cent lower, ending just 2.51 points down at 3,176.55.

The bluechip index went in a different direction from its neighbours. Other major Asian bourses mostly rose, though cautiously, before a two-day meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump that has been scheduled to start today (US time) at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Hong Kong climbed 0.6 per cent and Shanghai rose 1.5 per cent. Tokyo advanced 0.3 per cent and Seoul's Kospi was flat. However, gainers did outnumber losers in Singapore at 271 to 197, or about seven up for every five down.

The STI was weighed down by dips at Keppel Corp, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and the Singapore Exchange (SGX). SPH publishes The Business Times and this newspaper, among others.

Banks also did not have a good day, with all three local banks slipping. Local brokerage Maybank Kim Eng had said in an April 3 note that it was neutral on Singapore banks and expecting loan growth for the banks to come in at 2 to 4 per cent year on year for their financial year 2017.

It added that "every 1 per cent increase in loan growth could potentially raise net interest income by about 1 per cent, ceteris paribus".

The focus here yesterday seemed to be on second-liners. About 3.13 billion shares worth a solid $1.21 billion in total changed hands, which works out to an average unit price of $0.39 a share.

The most active counter was commodities trader Noble Group, which fell $0.004 to $0.189 with 90.5 million shares changing hands. Other actives included IEV Holdings which gained 1.6 cents or 18.6 per cent to end the day at 10.2 cents on 66 million shares traded.

IEV, which provides offshore engineering solutions to the oil and gas industry, was queried by the SGX yesterday about unusual movement in the traded volume of its shares.

It replied that it did not know of a possible explanation, other than its announcement last month that it had started confidential talks with parties related to possible fund-raising.

Elsewhere, attention was on the local telecommunications sector after the conclusion of a general spectrum auction. Brokerages RHB and OCBC Investment Research put out "neutral" ratings on the telco sector, and both said that Singtel shares will be more resilient than the other two listed telcos'.

"Increasing spectrum capacity is necessary for telcos to expand their mobile businesses and be ready to support 5G network in the future. That said, we believe the final pricing for the different spectrum bands were higher than we expect given that final prices for 700MHz, 900MHz... and 2.5GHz were 4.7x, 6.6x and 4.0x the respective reserve prices."

It added that the high prices the telcos have paid "will not change our ratings but will likely be more material on valuations of StarHub and M1, than on Singtel".

It has a "Sell" on StarHub with a fair value of $2.50, a "Hold" on M1 with a fair value of $1.96 and a "Buy" on Singtel with a $4.25 fair value.

This article appears in The Business Times today. For full listings of SGX prices, go to

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