Singapore stocks lead Southeast Asia fall

The signage of the Singapore Stock Exchange is seen in the Central Business District of Singapore on Thursday. (EPA photo)

Southeast Asian markets ended in negative territory on Thursday, with Singapore leading the pack as the city-state’s central bank cautioned about the global economic growth, signalling a reluctance to tighten policy anytime soon.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore held policy steady, saying a “neutral” stance will be needed for an extended period in order to support an economy that contracted in the first quarter.

Singapore’s trade-reliant economy shrank 1.9% in the first quarter from the previous three months on an annualised basis, weighed by contractions in manufacturing and services, preliminary data from the Ministry of Trade and Industry showed.

The central bank also said “downside risks remain, alongside significant policy uncertainty,” underscoring worries about the outlook in the face of US President Donald Trump’s protectionist threats, Brexit and geopolitical risks in the Middle East and North Korea.

Singapore’s benchmark index ended down to post its lowest close in over two weeks. Financials accounted for most of the losses, with DBS Group Holdings shedding 0.8%.

Global markets remained under pressure with escalating fears of a new weapon test by North Korea, as a US carrier group sails towards the area, and after Trump said the dollar “was getting too strong,” and he would like to see interest rates stay low.

Escalating geopolitical tensions will keep investors side-lined dampening sentiment in broader markets, said Taye Shim, head of research at Mirae Asset Sekuritas in Jakarta.

“Likely, we are going to see a little bit of volatility in terms of how things unfold.”

Indonesia finished 0.5% lower to its steepest close since April 3, with financials being the biggest drag on the index. Bank Central Asia Tbk Pt fell 1.7%.

Indonesia’s import growth probably softened in March, while the growth pace of exports accelerated slightly, a Reuters poll showed.

The poll sees Indonesia’s trade surplus narrowing slightly in March to US$1.20 billion, from February’s $1.31 billion surplus.

Index of the country’s 45 most liquid stocks fell 0.8%.

The market in the Philippines was closed for a public holiday.

Southeast Asian stock markets





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