Singapore shares closed 0.95 percent lower, as investors shrugged off news that the European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates to an all-time low on Thursday, a move that along with U.S. economic data lifted Wall Street stocks overnight.
The ECB lowered its main rate by a quarter percentage point to 0.50 percent, its first cut in 10 months, and pledged as much liquidity as Eurozone banks need well into next year.
Investors are now waiting for the key U.S. payroll data due later Friday. According to Thursday's data, the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week to its lowest level since the early days of the 2007-09 recession, suggesting the job market is still healing despite a still weak economy.
DBS Group Research said, "Liquidity inflow should continue to lend support to market with the Federal Reserve, ECB and Bank of Japan still very much in an accommodative stance." It added, "We also note that the property sector, which is interest rate sensitive, is also seeing uplift in investors' interest."
SIAS Research said, "We could see the index testing 3,420 points level while on the downside, 3,370 points is still the immediate support."
The benchmark Straits Times Index dropped 32.49 points to close at 3,369.90. Trading volume was 1.94 billion shares worth 1.55 billion Singapore dollars. Decliners outnumbered advancers 292 to 152, while 510 stocks closed unchanged.
UOB fell 0.9 percent to 21.80 Singapore dollars. The smallest of Singapore's three banks reported a better-than-expected net profit of 722 million Singapore dollars in the first quarter, 4.9 percent up from the previous year, boosted by a jump in fees and commissions that offset a drop in loan margins.
Genting Singapore slumped 7.8 percent to 1.485 Singapore dollars. The casino operator reported a net profit of 115.9 million Singapore dollars in the first quarter ended March 31, down 44 percent from a year earlier. The group attributed the drop to lower win percentages for the house in its premium players' business.
Ascott Residence Trust shed 0.4 percent to 1.405 Singapore dollars. It announced a conditional agreement to buy three serviced residence properties in China and 11 rental housing properties in Japan at a total cost of 287.4 million Singapore dollars.
Among the top gainers, Jardine Matheson rose 0.3 percent to 65. 20 U.S. dollars, while Venture Corporation became one of the top losers by falling 4.5 percent to 7.21 Singapore dollars. (1 U.S. dollar equals 1.23 Singapore dollars)