STI rises 0.7% amid slight optimism

Regional investors dared to conjure up a measure of optimism yesterday after slight gains on Wall Street and a merciful lack of major developments on the trade front.

Asian markets were also propped up by reports that China has offered to waive tariffs on some imports of United States soya bean and pork, and news that American factory orders rebounded in October.

The Straits Times Index (STI) responded by extending gains from Thursday to close the week at 3,194.71, jumping 20.52 points or 0.7 per cent – and up 0.79 point for the week.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, benchmarks in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan all posted good gains to close out the trading week.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.4 per cent this week, registering its best weekly performance in two months.

Like much of last month, investors focused on updates from the US-China trade front this week instead of the numerous economic data releases put out, but it is unlikely to continue that way in the coming weeks.

“Whether or not the US and China can cut a deal remains the obsession, arguably the only game in town heading into the Dec 15 deadline for the next round of tariffs,” noted Mr Vishnu Varathan, Mizuho Bank’s head of economics and strategy for the Asia and Oceania treasury.

Trading volumes here stood at one billion securities worth $1.19 billion, with gainers outpacing losers 183 to 171. Three of the STI’s 30 counters ended in the red.

Golden Agri-Resources was again the STI’s most active counter, with 84.3 million shares changing hands.

It closed 4.3 per cent lower at 22 cents after index compiler FTSE Russell indicated that the plantation owner will be dropped from the STI and replaced by Mapletree Logistics Trust from Dec 23.

Real estate investment trusts (Reits) were mostly higher. Among them, Lendlease Reit climbed 1.1 per cent to 93 cents after DBS Group Research initiated coverage on the retail property play with a “buy” recommendation.

Sasseur Reit added 1.7 per cent to 89 cents after indicating it will be included in the FTSE EPRA Nareit Global Emerging Index from Dec 23.

Among counters in the second line, iX Biopharma was one of the market’s best performers, surging 26.9 per cent to 25 cents.

The pharmaceutical company revealed after market close on Thursday that its unit was granted a cannabis manufacture licence from the Office of Drug Control in Australia. iX Biopharma has now secured all the required licences to manufacture, import and export medicinal cannabis.

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