The Singapore stock market on Wednesday wrote a finish to the five-day winning streak that saw it collect more than 220 points or 15 percent along the way. The Straits Times Index dipped back below support at 1,700 points, although investors are optimistic that the market will bounce back above that level again at the opening of trade on Thursday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is fairly upbeat, thanks to some better than expected economic data out of the United States. The financial stocks, after experiencing a mild correction in the previous session, are expected to resume their upward movement to provide support for the markets. The European markets finished higher across the board, as did the U.S. markets - and the Asian markets are expected to do the same.
The STI finished modestly lower on Wednesday as profit takers cut into gains from the recent winning streak. Properties ended lower, as did the commodity stocks - although strength among the financials limited the declines.
For the day, the index lost 14.66 points or 0.9 percent to close at 1691.68 points after trading between 1,677.94 and 1,708.07. Volume was 1.3 billion shares, with decliners outnumbering gainers 219 to 156.
Among the decliners, Singapore Telecom fell 0.8 percent, while CapitaLand was down 3.9 percent, Olam was down 4.8 percent, Wilmar lost 3.8 percent, Noble shed 1.7 percent and OCBC eased 0.2 percent. Bucking the trend, DBS was up 0.5 percent and United Overseas Bank gained 0.4 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is positive as stocks experienced considerable volatility over the course of the trading session on Wednesday, with the major averages eventually ending the session firmly in positive territory. The choppy trading came as traders digested some strong economic data combined with weak demand for a U.S. treasury auction.
Some initial buying interest was generated by a report from the Commerce Department revealing that durable goods orders unexpectedly showed a substantial increase in the month of February after falling in each of the six previous months. The report showed that durable goods orders jumped 3.4 percent in February after falling by a revised 7.3 percent in January. Economists had been expecting durable goods orders to fall by 2.5 percent compared to the 4.5 percent decrease that had been reported for the previous month.
The markets saw some further upside after the Commerce Department released a separate report showing an unexpected increase in new home sales in the month of February. This marked the latest in recent string of positive housing market data. The Commerce Department said that new home sales rose 4.7 percent to an annual rate of 337,000 in February from an upwardly revised January rate of 322,000. The results surprised economists, who had been expecting sales to fall to 300,000 from the 309,000 originally reported for the previous month.
Stocks were unable to sustain the upward move, however, as investors remained skeptical that the better than expected data signals a turnaround for the economy. After hovering in positive territory for much of the morning, stocks showed a substantial turnaround over the course of the afternoon amid a negative reaction to the release of the results of the Treasury Department's auction of $34 billion worth of five-year notes. The auction drew a yield of 1.849 percent and a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.02.
With the bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, coming in below the 2.21 from the Treasury's previous auction of $32 billion in five-year notes last month, the auction results raised some concerns about demand for U.S. government debt. The major averages subsequently pulled back well off their highs and into the red.
Nonetheless, stocks moved back to the upside going into the close, lifting the major averages back into positive territory. The Dow closed up 89.84 points or 1.2 percent at 7,749.81, the Nasdaq closed up 12.43 points or 0.8 percent at 1,528.95 and the S&P 500 closed up 7.63 points or 1 percent at 813.88.
In economic news, Singapore will on Thursday provide industrial production figures for February, with analysts predicting a 23 percent annual fall after the 29.1 percent decline a month earlier. Seasonally adjusted, industrial production is forecast to ease 0.7 percent on month after the 4.4 percent monthly fall in January.
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