Singapore’s economic reopening is failing to lift its equities

·2-min read
A woman walks past commercial buildings in the financial business district in Singapore on June 11, 2020, as the city state eased its partial lockdown restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Financial business district in Singapore, 11 June 2020. (PHOTO: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By Abhishek Vishnoi

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s emergence from the Covid-19 shock is gathering pace, but that isn’t boosting the nation’s equity benchmark.

That’s because the gauge is very much a bet on the global recovery rather than a wager on the city-state. The Straits Times Index is still 21% away from turning positive for the year, among the worst in Asia. Singapore’s plan to give a roadmap to the final phase of reopening and the ongoing decline in active virus cases has so far had limited impact on nation’s equities.

Thanks to Singapore’s deep integration with global trade and supply chains, half of the benchmark members’ revenues is from outside the island nation, according to data from Singapore Exchange Ltd. The International Monetary Fund forecast a 4.4% global contraction for this year, the deepest since the Great Depression, but less than its prior estimate of 5.2% in June.

Stocks in the gauge have a significant regional presence and “there are no signs of a near-term earnings turnaround for index heavyweights like the banks and Singtel,” said Shekhar Jaiswal, head of research at RHB Singapore. “We continue to recommend investors to stay anchored in defensive names.”

Jaiswal recommends investors stay with stocks such as supermarket operator Sheng Siong Group Ltd., property manager Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust and defense-equipment maker Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., while selectively adding shares tied to the global recovery.

Investors have so far brushed off the incremental reopening measures. Singapore Airlines Ltd. has risen a little more than 1% since the government announced a travel bubble with Hong Kong on Thursday.

Another reason that has kept Singapore off investors’ radar is a lack in technology stocks listed in the city-state.

The investing community’s “infatuation with tech stocks needs to end for STI to make significant gains,” said Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, an analyst at Tellimer in Singapore. “Singapore’s reopening will help some of the dividend stocks but there is a dearth of relevant big listings for pre and post-Covid scenarios.”

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.