A late bout of selling caused the local market to close below the psychological support level of 3,400 yesterday.

The Straits Times Index (STI) dropped 20.3 points or 0.6 per cent to 3,395.3.

Turnover stood at $ 934 million with 1.2 billion shares traded, below the daily average of some $ 1.2 billion earlier this week.

Shares were in negative territory for most of the trading session, but were limited in their declines until the final minutes of trade when the benchmark index ended at the intra-day low.

A combination of downbeat global economic developments and disappointing corporate earnings led to the fall.

China announced at the start of its annual National People’s Congress yesterday that it would lower its economic growth target to 7 per cent, down from 7.5 per cent previously.

In the United States, jobs data released on Wednesday from payroll company ADP showed 212,000 private jobs were added last month, below expectations for a rise of 220,000, sparking fears that this could be a harbinger for the monthly jobs report due later today.

“It was really the macroeconomic factors that weighed down the market, which was already weaker initially because of the US jobs figures,” said remisier Alvin Yong.

“There was also disappointment over the China announcement for a slower economy, so it seems to be a case of the market moving two steps forward and one step back recently.”

Investors also stayed on the sidelines ahead of details to be released by the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme.

The 30 STI constituent stocks remained unchanged following a quarterly review, said Singapore Press Holdings, the Singapore Exchange and the FTSE Group.

And it was the usual suspects that affected the STI, with large swings from the Jardine group of companies.

Jardine Matheson was the top loser, down US$ 1.10 to US$ 64.54 while Jardine Strategic was next in line as it lost 43 US cents to US$ 35.10.

Both companies reported their earnings after markets closed. Jardine Strategic’s full-year underlying profit was unchanged from a year ago at US$ 1.6 billion while Jardine Matheson’s full-year underlying profit rose by just 2 per cent to US$ 1.5 billion.

Telco Singtel was another major contributor to the STI’s decline, as it lost five cents to $ 4.11.

Commodities firm Noble stayed in the spotlight. It rose half a cent to $ 1.005 despite Iceberg Research – which has criticised Noble’s accounting methods – saying it would issue a third note.

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