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Muted trading, investors stay on sidelines

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But upcoming events, such as Fed minutes release and US-China trade negotiations, suggest things might heat up

Yesterday's market activity was muted.

US markets were closed on Monday, as investors took aim at profit-taking opportunities.

The Straits Times Index (STI), which spent much of the session treading above Monday's closing of 3,265.97, closed 6.17 points or 0.2 per cent lower at 3,259.80.

Though the STI closed lower, UOB Kay Hian's vice-president of equities and financial products Brandon Leu noted that it has been "trading near its technical key resistance of 3,300".

Trade activity on Singapore bourse's saw 1.12 billion securities worth $775.94 million traded, below the Singapore Exchange's daily average securities trading volume. Decliners outnumbered advancers 218 to 172.

On the volume, CMC Market's Margaret Yang told The Business Times that it "suggests investors are not eager to jump into the market at the current level, due to mixed earnings and a tepid economic outlook".

Pennies saw heavy trading, with the most actively traded on the day being Ezion Holdings.

The liftboat-focused company's counter closed 0.1 cent or 2.3 per cent lower at 4.2 cents with 40.1 million shares changing hands.

Of the 30 STI constituents, half ended the day in the red. Genting Singapore's shares ended down one cent or 0.9 per cent at $1.09 with 26.9 million shares changing hands, the STI's most traded.

Ms Yang attributed the blue-chip index's dip mainly to profit-taking in ThaiBev (down 2.5 cents or 3 per cent at 79.5 cents), Singapore Airlines (down 12 cents or 1.2 per cent at $9.83), Jardine C&C (down 47 cents or 1.3 per cent at $36.26) and HPH Trust (down 1.5 cents or 4.4 per cent at 32.5 cents).

Among financials, DBS Group Holdings, which released its full-year 2018 earnings on Monday, dipped 10 cents or 0.4 per cent to $25.10.

Following Monday's Budget, broking analysts have said that healthcare stocks could be among the possible winners. But in the short term, it is unlikely to be of effect.

Ms Yang pointed out: "I don't think the Budget has an immediate impact as it is meant to address long-term needs of an ageing society."

Raffles Medical closed one cent or 0.9 per cent up at $1.12; Thomson Medical finished 0.1 cent or 1.3 per cent lower at 7.9 cents; and OUE Lippo Healthcare ended four cents or 6.3 per cent higher at 6.7 cents.

A focus on defence and building a smart nation also meant analysts were big on ST Engineering, which closed one cent or 0.3 per cent down at $3.73.

Enterprise hardware supplier Procurri's stock slumped after it said a proposed investor had withdrawn its acquisition offer, closing at 28 cents, down 9.7 per cent or three cents.

Elsewhere in Asia, profit-taking meant markets ebbed and flowed, with Australia, Japan, China and Malaysia posting modest gains. South Korea and Hong Kong closed with mild losses.

Upcoming events of the week suggest things might heat up.

In Singapore, among key players that will announce Q4 and full-year earnings this week are CapitaLand and Sembcorp Marine today, Genting Singapore tomorrow, and banking stalwarts OCBC Bank and United Oversea Bank on Friday.

IG market strategist Pan Jingyi noted that others to look out for include today's Fed minutes release and US-China trade negotiations towards the end of the week. While the US and China have shown growing patience with one another, "some of the difficult issues are expected back on the discussion table", she added.

This sense of caution was already seen in Asian markets towards the end of yesterday's session, eating into the day's early gains.

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