STI inches up on bargain hunting

SINGAPORE – The local market inched up yesterday as investors shrugged off disappointing news out of the United States late on Friday to hunt for bargains.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s announcement last week that he was restructuring his business empire also likely helped.

The benchmark Straits Times Index increased 0.2 per cent or 6.45 points to 3,344.89, led by conglomerate Jardine Matheson Holdings, which is based in Hong Kong.

Jardine Matheson, controlled by the Keswick family, rose 2.2 per cent or US$ 1.32 (S$ 1.76) to US$ 62.32. That was after it climbed 2.43 per cent on Friday, which was the counter’s biggest daily percentage gain since Sept 3 last year.

Traders may be expecting that Mr Li’s US$ 24-billion restructuring could prompt rival conglomerate Jardine Matheson to consider making a similar move, market watchers said.

The 86-year-old, who is Hong Kong’s richest man, said on Friday that he would combine assets from multiple sectors under two new listed companies.

The announcement lifted Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index 0.5 per cent yesterday. However, other regional markets dipped on numbers showing a drop in wages in the US last month and concerns that the European Central Bank’s stimulus plans may not fix the zone’s economic problems.

Shanghai slumped 1.7 per cent, Seoul slipped 0.2 per cent and Sydney shed 0.8 per cent. Markets in Tokyo were closed for a holiday.

The most-traded counter here was Catalist-listed International Healthway Corporation, which stayed flat at 27.5 cents with 99.8 million changing hands.

Other fairly active stocks included warehouse landlord Global Logistic Properties, up a cent to $ 2.48 with 21.3 million shares traded.

Other gainers included Singapore Airlines, which rose 2.8 per cent or 34 cents to $ 12.50. Airlines are expected to benefit from low oil prices bringing down their operating costs.

“Bargain hunting appears to be lifting some blue chips, but overall market gains have been partially offset by continued bearishness over oil and gas sector shares,” IG market strategist Ryan Huang said yesterday.

“It’s likely to be a choppy week ahead as investors await some key global macroeconomic figures, including China trade and new loans data, US retail sales and heightened uncertainty over elections in Greece.”

Greece goes to the polls on Jan 25 and the outcome could determine whether it remains in the euro zone.

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