Blue chips lead the charge as STI rises

Blue chips lead the charge as STI rises

The Hong Kong bull run drove Singapore shares higher yesterday, with blue chip counters attracting regional fund-buying interest while other investors homed in on penny plays.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) rallied 18.87 points to 3,539.95, with 3.47 billion shares worth $1.49 billion changing hands.

Singtel, the two Jardine companies and banking counters DBS Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB) led the charge.

Singtel rose 0.4 per cent or two cents to $4.53 with 28.4 million shares traded, while Jardine Matheson gained 1.1 per cent or 67 US cents to US$62.38.

Jardine Strategic rose 1.3 per cent or 45 US cents to US$35.40.

UOB gained 1.1 per cent or 25 cents to $23.93, while DBS climbed 1 per cent or 21 cents to $20.95.

Neptune Orient Lines attracted unexpectedly high investor interest.

The stock jumped 6.4 per cent or 6.5 cents to $1.085 with an unusually high 41.5 million shares traded.

The stock closed at $1.02 on Tuesday with just 9.2 million shares traded.

Penny play Sino Construction took a hit, plunging nearly 18 per cent or 1.6 cents to 7.4 cents, with 170.5 million shares changing hands, while Digiland International closed unchanged at 0.1 cent on trade of 42.9 million shares.

News that China posted the slowest economic growth in six years fuelled expectations of further monetary easing and stimulus, and fuelled the ongoing rally in Hong Kong.

A flood of Chinese buying has sent the Hang Seng Index up 14 per cent in eight days, to levels not seen for more than seven years.

The Hang Seng added 0.2 per cent yesterday, but the Shanghai Composite index slumped 1.2 per cent after China's gross domestic product rose 7 per cent in the first quarter, slowing from 7.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

"There may be some rotational play from regional funds moving into blue chips here," CMC Markets analyst Nicholas Teo said.

"Expectations of further easing and stimulus from China may keep the party going, but an earlier-than-expected rate hike or a sudden spike up in the US dollar could stop the party."

Expectations that Keppel Corp may not post robust first-quarter earnings sent the stock down 0.7 per cent or seven cents to $9.45 yesterday, with 6.65 million shares traded. The company will release its results today.

"The outlook on the rig-building business is still quite bleak, and it hasn't signed any major contract to date," remisier Alvin Yong said.

"Also worrying is Keppel Land, which it recently took private, has properties with unsold units."

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