Plus   Neg

Singapore Stock Market May Test Support At 3,000 Points

The Singapore stock market has closed lower now in two straight sessions, falling more than 15 points or half of a percent in the process. The Straits Times Index finished just above the 3,010-point plateau, and now traders are expecting continued if mild softness when the market opens on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is flat with a hint of negativity in response to weaker than expected economic data from the United States following a report that industrial production unexpectedly was unchanged in February. Unexpected weakness in consumer sentiment adds to the overall caution. The European markets finished slightly higher and the U.S. bourses were mixed but little changed, and the Asian markets are expected to follow the latter lead.

The STI finished modestly lower on Friday following losses from the telecoms and a mixed bad from the property sector.

For the day, the index fell 15.16 points or 0.50 percent to finish at the daily low of 3,010.68 after peaking at 3,035.78. Volume was 1.36 billion shares worth 1.48 billion Singapore dollars. There were 250 gainers and 129 decliners.

Among the actives, Starhub shed 1.3 percent, while SingTel and Global Logistic Properties also moved lower. On the other hand, Neptune Orient Lines added 1.4 percent and Genting Singapore also was up.

The lead from Wall Street supplies little guidance as stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading session on Friday, with traders reluctant to make any significant moves following the recent rally. The markets eventually ended the choppy trading session nearly flat.

While stocks did not follow-through on the recent upward move, it is worth noting that traders did not cash in on the recent gains amid concerns about missing out on any further upside.

On the economic front, the Labor Department reported that its consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to increase by about 0.5 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index edged up 0.1 percent in February compared to a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Core prices had been expected to increase by about 0.2 percent.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said that industrial production unexpectedly came in unchanged in February after rising by a revised 0.4 percent in January, with a sharp drop in mining output offsetting continued growth in the manufacturing sector. Economist had expected production to increase by 0.5 percent after initial data showed that production was unchanged in the previous month.

Finally, Reuters and the University of Michigan also released their preliminary report on consumer sentiment in March, showing an unexpected deterioration. The consumer sentiment index fell to 74.3 in March from 75.3 in February, surprising economists, who had expected the index to increase to 76.0.

The major averages bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before finishing mixed. While the S&P 500 crept up 1.57 points or 0.1 percent to 1,404.17, the Dow slipped 20.14 points or 0.2 percent to 13,232.62 and the NASDAQ edged down 1.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 3,055.26. Despite the mixed performance, the major averages all showed strong upward moves for the week. The Dow and the S&P 500 both rose by 2.4 percent, while the NASDAQ climbed 2.2 percent.

In economic news, the International Enterprise Singapore said on Friday that non-oil domestic exports surged 30.5 percent annually in February, bouncing back from 2.4 percent contraction in January. Economists had forecast a 16.2 percent increase. On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, NODX grew 6.2 percent, after the previous month's marginal expansion of 0.5 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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