Traders hold breath ahead of ECB meet

Traders hold breath ahead of ECB meet

SNGAPORE shares ended a smidgeon lower as traders turned cautious ahead of the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting that is expected to unleash new stimulus measures.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) dipped 0.05 per cent or 1.31 points to 2,809.12, weighed down by Keppel Corp.

The rig builder shed 1.7 per cent or 10 cents to $5.90, as oil prices pulled back from above US$41 a barrel on fears of oversupply.

Bank counters also put pressure on the STI.

DBS Group slipped 0.5 per cent or eight cents to $15.15 while OCBC lost 0.3 per cent or three cents to $8.70.

Other blue chips also felt some pain, with Global Logistic Properties sinking 1.6 per cent or three cents to $1.845.

Singtel shed 0.3 per cent or one cent to $3.76.

Investors are waiting for initiatives by the ECB which is expected to unveil additional easing measures in an attempt to boost sagging euro-zone inflation.

"We're hoping that the ECB would expand its asset buying programme to stocks and ETFs instead of just bonds," remisier Alvin Yong said.

However, investors remained cautious after the bank disappointed markets in December with a smaller-than-expected package of easing measures.

Meanwhile, a bout of profit-taking sent oil-related penny play Ezra Holdings down 1.7 per cent or 0.2 cent to 11.8, with 509.5 million shares traded.

The stock has been among the most actively traded this week on market talk of a possible takeover bid for its sub-sea services division, EMAS Offshore.

An Ezra spokesman said yesterday that the firm "is not aware of any such plan".

Penny plays continued to rule the roost, with at least three counters queried yesterday by the Singapore Exchange for unusual volume movements.

Catalist-listed IEV Holdings surged 78 per cent, or five cents, to 11.4 cents, with 166.1 million shares traded.

The offshore and energy firm said it was not aware of any possible explanation for the trading activity.

Queries were also lodged with oil and gas company Linc Energy, which plunged 36.6 per cent or 10.6 cents to 18.4 cents, and Chasen Holdings.

The industrial relocation specialist skyrocketed nearly 70 per cent or 2.3 cents to 5.6 cents, with 61.7 million shares traded.

Other hotly traded pennies included Elektromotive, which was flat at 0.4 cent with 521.8 million shares traded, and Moya Asia, up 21.2 per cent or 0.7 cent to four cents, with 53.7 million shares traded.

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