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TAKING STOCK – Bourses buckle across Asia on US, oil worries

ST Index falls 91 points, marking its fourth slump in five sessions

REGIONAL bourses including Singapore suffered a rout yesterday in the face of fresh worries about a slowdown in the United States and record crude oil prices.

The Straits Times Index (STI) plunged 91.07 points, or 2.65 per cent, to end at 3,347.20 – its fourth slide in five sessions.

About 1.83 billion shares worth $2.18 billion were traded, with gainers trailing way behind losers by 176 to 677.

Said CIMB-GK research head Song Seng Wun: ‘It doesn’t take much to knock the wind out of the market’s sails at the moment.

‘Today, it was a continuation of US recession worries, sub-prime fears and high oil prices.’

Earlier, the Federal Reserve slashed its US growth forecast for next year to between 1.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent, down from the 2.5 per cent to 2.75 per cent range forecast in June.

More bad news battered the markets as crude oil continued its charge towards the psychologically significant US$100 mark, hitting a peak of US$99.29 during intra-day trade due to a weakening greenback.

Market players also pointed to Japan’s Nikkei index, saying its early dive had set the scene for a bearish regional trading session.

Said a Singapore dealer: ‘The Nikkei slid quite heavily in late morning trading, which affected regional sentiment.

‘Here, we saw the herd mentality at work, which sparked a selldown.’

The Nikkei dipped 2.46 per cent to 14,387.66 points, while bloodletting on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index sent it down by 1,153.02 points or 4.15 per cent to 26,618.19.

Here in Singapore, traders’ fears that Tuesday’s modest recovery was just a ‘dead cat bounce’ – a mild recovery before another fall – were realised.

Singapore Exchange shares led the STI’s decline, as they dived 70 cents to $12.40. That alone accounted for a 10.8-point fall in the index. Dealers said hedge funds were largely responsible for this selldown.

SingTel shares continued their southward spiral as they fell another six cents to $3.72. Investors are concerned about the fallout from an unfavourable ruling by Indonesia’s competition watchdog, but some analysts feel such fears might be overdone.

A Credit Suisse report noted: ‘Concerns over the political and regulatory risk are unlikely to affect short-term or possibly even long-term forecasts. Thus, a further correction could signal a buying opportunity.’

Bank stocks also took a hit, with United Overseas Bank dropping 60 cents to $19. DBS Group Holdings fell 40 cents to $19.20, while OCBC Bank slipped 15 cents to $8.25.

There was no bright debut for Z-Obee Holdings, which managed only 28.5 cents – below its issue price of 34 cents.

Given the volatile times and cautious mood, market experts urge investors to switch from speculative stocks to those with a proven track record and a low price-earnings ratio.

Mr Song added: ‘There are still buying opportunities, despite the uncertain environment. Blue chips, defensive stocks and resource sector counters still continue to be attractive.’

 

Source: The Straits Times 22 Nov 07

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