Singapore shares closed 0.48 percent higher on Thursday, as the U.S. Federal Reserve's fresh dose of liquidity-pumping measures underpin sentiment, but investors remain concerned about the lack of breakthrough in U.S. budget talks to avert the "fiscal cliff."
A failure to reach a compromise could push the U.S. economy into recession. U.S. stocks ended little changed overnight, giving up most of the day's gains after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that monetary policy will not be enough to offset damage from the fiscal cliff, which some 600 billion U.S. dollars of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to start in January.
The US central bank cut its forecasts for economic growth and inflation next year, committed to monthly purchases of 45 billion U.S. dollars in Treasuries on top of the 40 billion U.S. dollars per month in mortgage-backed bonds it started buying in September. But it also took the unprecedented step of indicating interest rates would remain near zero until unemployment falls to at least 6.5 percent.
Uncertainty remained over U.S. budget talks. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said "serious differences" remain with President Barack Obama in talks to avert the steep tax hikes and budget cuts set for the new year.
Phillip Securities Research said "notwithstanding this round of monetary stimulus, accommodative monetary policy is not sufficient to mitigate any fallout arising from the U.S. economy falling over the fiscal cliff," adding that "the progress (or lack of) in fiscal budget negotiations will set the tone of market sentiment and consequently market direction."
Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index rose 14.98 points to 3,156.55 points. Trading volume was 2.27 billion shares worth 1.20 billion Singapore dollars. Advancers outnumbered decliners 253 to 168, while 535 stocks did not move.
Among top actives, Olam International fell 1.7 percent to 1.415 Singapore dollars. UOB KayHian Research rated it "buy", but cuts its target price to 1.98 Singapore dollars from 2.32 Singapore dollars, and lowers its net profit forecast of financial year 2013 by 5 percent to 396 million Singapore dollars, mainly on higher finance costs due to the rights issue of bonds with attached warrants and higher refinancing rates. The research house also prices in the expected dilution from the warrants' exercise in three years.
Fraser and Neave ended flat at 9.52 Singapore dollars. It has appointed J.P. Morgan to advise on a 10.6 billion U.S. dollars takeover offer from Overseas Union Enterprise. Fraser and Neave's independent directors will issue a recommendation on the bid to shareholders by December 20, after receiving advice from J.P. Morgan.
Overseas Union Enterprise is a Singapore-based property developer owned by Indonesia's Riady family. It is offering 9.08 Singapore dollars for each Fraser and Neave share it does not own, topping the 8.88 Singapore dollars per share offer by companies linked to Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.
Among top gainers, Jardine Matheson rose 2.2 percent to 62 U.S. dollars, while Great Eastern Holdings became one of the top losers by falling 1.3 percent to 15.43 Singapore dollars. (1 U.S. dollar equals to 1.22 Singapore dollars)