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TAKING STOCK: Market ends flat as it awaits US rate cue

LOST: One stock market, last seen striding confidently towards the 3,600- point milestone but now believed to be wandering in the wilderness, awaiting direction from a Dr Bernanke in the United States.

The Singapore bourse certainly did not know where it was going yesterday after an early rally – the Straits Times Index (STI) was up 49.48 points at one point – petered out into a barely perceptible rise of 0.29 point to 3,521.56.

The market probably took its cue from the European market, which tanked after the opening bell, said a dealer.

Bargain-hunting and the usual bout of nerves played their part in Singapore, although interest was lukewarm anyway with only 1.46 billion shares worth $2.23 billion changing hands.

Regional markets did not fare much better – Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index managing a tiny gain, while South Korea’s Kospi, Taiwan’s Taiex and the Shanghai Composite lost some ground.

Investors had hoped for a better showing after last Friday’s positive Wall Street close and hints from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke that interest rates would be cut this month.

But uncertainty trumps expectations in this market, and buyers kept their powder dry, although the Singapore Exchange was a bright spot, rising 60 cents, or 4.26 per cent, to $14.70.

DBS Group Holdings led financial stocks higher, up 30 cents, or 1.49 per cent, at $20.40, on healthy loans growth in October. United Overseas Bank was up 10 cents, or 0.5 per cent, at $19.90, but OCBC Bank fell five cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $8.45.

The weak market sentiment was nowhere more evident than in the dismal welcome Hyflux Water Trust received at its trading debut yesterday. The trust, which holds 13 water treatment plants in China, ended at a seven-cent discount to its listing price of 78 cents on a volume of 23.44 million.

Parkway Holdings lost 12 cents, or 3.16 per cent, to $3.68, after a Citigroup report lowered its target price to $3.74 from $3.85, citing rich valuations for the stock.

STX Pan Ocean rose for a third day, gaining four cents to $3.18, after hitting as much as $3.36 earlier. The firm expects dry-bulk shipping rates to peak next year because of a shortage of ships.

The UOB Sesdaq Index, which tracks smaller-cap stocks, mirrored the STI’s performance, edging up 0.94 point, or 0.45 per cent, to 210.32.

Market experts sounded a cautious note, citing a hazy outlook. ‘The direction is still unclear. Investors are going to have to be very selective in buying,’ said one dealer.


Source: The Straits Times 4 Dec 07

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