SINGAPORE shares enjoyed some respite yesterday after the recent bloodletting, as investors took a breather from recent euro zone worries and focused on regional economic data instead.
The result was little movement on the benchmark Straits Times Index, which inched up 2.69 points to 2,903.6.
'Japan, China and Australia were busy announcing trade and jobs data today, which gave brief respite from Greece's political debacle and fears of a euro zone meltdown,' said Mr Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore, yesterday. 'Given the choppy week... today will go down as a good result.'
A broker said: 'There was nothing much to do today. The penny stock rally is over, and most investors are waiting to see how the Europe situation is like before making their next move. They expect more volatility going ahead.'
It was a similar mood in the region, where most key markets experienced mild gains or slight losses. Hong Kong shares were down 0.5 per cent, Shanghai stocks were up 0.1 per cent and Australian shares added 0.5 per cent.
Asian investor sentiment was dampened by the release of Chinese data showing slower-than-expected exports and imports last month.
In Singapore, a slew of corporate results announced yesterday and on Wednesday put several blue chips in the spotlight.
Plantation giant Wilmar International yesterday announced a 33.8 per cent slump in first-quarter earnings to US$255.85 million (S$321 million).
Its share price sank to its lowest levels since mid-2009, hitting an intra-day low of $4.23 before closing 43 cents down at $4.27.
'There's really not much to push the share price up over the period. Until we see some recovery on oilseeds and grains, there doesn't seem to be any appetite for Wilmar,' said DBS Vickers analyst Ben Santoso.
Singapore Airlines reported an unexpected fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday in the light of weak demand and high fuel prices. Its share price slumped 30 cents to $10.29.
UOB Kay Hian noted: 'The results highlight SIA's lack of pricing power and erosion of brand value.' It cut SIA's target price from $11.90 to $9 and downgraded it to a sell.
In the same boat was shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines, which fell 2.5 cents to $1.135 after reporting its fifth consecutive quarterly loss.
DBS Vickers, which trimmed its target price from $1.25 to $1.12, said: 'Given the renewed economic and political uncertainties in the US and EU, the spectre of sustained high fuel prices and potential freight rate moderation in coming months, sentiment in the sector could be weak in the near term.'
In contrast, United Overseas Bank shares gained 40 cents to $18.60 after the bank posted a 12.4 per cent rise in quarterly earnings to $688 million.
Barclays, which raised its price target from $20.40 to $20.80 while keeping its overweight call, noted: 'UOB's strong funding base will continue to support loan market share gains and upward repricing of assets.'