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Singapore is still stuck in a bear market: 3 things you need to know

Singapore is still stuck in a bear market: 3 things you need to know
PHOTO: Pexels

The Covid-19 pandemic is the single most devastating economic event in the last 11 years.

To put things in perspective, Singapore is seeing its worst GDP contraction since independence in 1965, falling by 13.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, the US has seen a record number of job losses since February, with a staggering 11.5 million people going out of work.

In Singapore, total employment plunged by 103,500 in June alone, the highest level within a single month on record.

The overall unemployment rate here hit 2.8 per cent in June, while the US has seen its unemployment rate settling at 8.4 per cent.

Despite sharing the same economic pain, the stock market in Singapore and the US seen vastly differing fortunes.

The US stock market has recovered its year to date losses and even gone on to achieve new all-time highs.

Our local stock market, on the other hand, is still mired in a punishing bear market amid lacklustre trading interest.

This disconnect has left many investors scratching their heads.

Is this under performance set to continue? What are the implications for investors?

Here are three things you need to be aware of.

A heavy tilt

The Singapore stock market is represented by the Straits Times Index or STI.

The STI contains 30 large-cap, blue-chip companies that cover a wide variety of industries.

However, investors should note that the three local banks make up a significant portion of the STI, at 38.5 per cent.


Next up in terms of weightage is Singtel, which takes up 7.5 per cent of the index.

Together, the banks and Singtel make up a whopping 46 per cent of the STI.

With this heavy tilt towards banks, it’s no wonder that the index has been struggling.

Banks are sensitive to macroeconomic conditions and will report weaker earnings during tough times.

At the same time, the Monetary Authority of Singapore had recently called on the banks to limit their dividend payments to 60 per cent of the amount declared in the fiscal year 2019.

This prudence limits the dividends that banks can pay out, thus acting as an additional dampener for their share prices.

Growth is present, but outside the Singapore index

Truth be told, our local stocks contain a significant mish-mash of old economy-type businesses.

These would include essential services companies such as Sheng Siong Group Ltd  and Micro-Mechanics.

The US indices, however, contain many stocks that have online businesses such as Alphabet and Facebook  that have benefitted from the pandemic’s effects.


Businesses that tap on social media, the internet and have a subscription model are performing well, leaving some of the older economy stocks in the dust.

However, there are pockets of strong growth here too, but they reside mostly outside of the index.

One example is iFAST Corporation Ltd which operates a platform for the buying and selling of unit trusts and equities.

Its share price has more than doubled year to date as the group reports a record level of assets under administration from fund inflows.

Dividend yields are attractive

With share prices coming down, many businesses now sport attractive dividend yields.

For income-driven investors, they can still find companies with robust prospects that offer an attractive dividend yield.

These companies can continue to pay out a decent level of dividends, and may even increase their dividends over the years if the business continues to perform well.

Venture Corporation Limited , a global provider of technology products and solutions, just hiked its interim dividend from $0.20 to $0.25.

Its shares offer a trailing 12-month yield of close to 4 per cent.

Get Smart: Bargain-hunters, listen up!

From the observations above, it’s clear that opportunities do exist for great returns.

Bargain hunters should carefully scour through the few quality names that have remained resilient in the face of the downturn.

Although the STI has not performed well, that should not stop you from looking beyond the index to uncover gems that can continue to shine.

In years to come, you may even look back at this period and tell yourself that it was a golden opportunity to accumulate shares of strong companies.

This article was first published in The Smart InvestorDisclaimer: Royston Yang owns shares iFAST Corporation Limited, Alphabet and Facebook.

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