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Singapore stocks index is sole winner among developed markets this year

Singapore stocks index is sole winner among developed markets this year
Singapore’s Straits Times Index has eked out gains of about 1% in 2022, the only developed-market gauge in positive territory in dollar terms. (PHOTO::Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg)

By Ishika Mookerjee

(Bloomberg) — As stagflation concerns mar the outlook for the world’s biggest developed markets, shares in a small Asian city-state have held up surprisingly well this year.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index has eked out gains of about 1% in 2022, the only developed-market gauge in positive territory in dollar terms. In contrast, a world gauge is down 22% in what could be its worst year since the 2008 global financial crisis.

A rising interest-rate environment, a shift toward cheaper valuations and economic tailwinds generated by Singapore’s pandemic recovery have helped underpin the benchmark, where banks account for about half of the weighting. The measure’s lack of exposure to tech shares has helped as well, contrasting its performance with the US and Europe, economies that are struggling with issues ranging from inflation and energy shortages to supply-chain disruptions.

“Singapore’s performance correlates with the outperformance of value over growth, which is expected to continue as long as the Fed remains committed to bringing down inflation to the long-term target rate,” said Alan Richardson, portfolio manager at Samsung Asset Management (HK) Ltd.

The benchmark’s lack of exposure to tech shares has helped as well, contrasting its performance with the US and Europe, economies that are struggling with issues ranging from inflation and energy shortages to supply-chain disruptions.

“Until the Fed slows or pivots, developed markets probably won’t catch up” with Singapore, said Daniel Dubrovsky, strategist at DailyFX. The market is focused on the Fed, even after Australia’s smaller-than-expected rate hike this week, and “there is still room for the labor market to absorb a near-term slowdown” in the US, he added.

Forward earnings estimates for Singapore stocks are up about 16% year-to-date, about four times the increase seen for members in the global gauge. Still, Singapore’s trade-dependent economy isn’t without risk — factory activity contracted in September for the first time since June 2020 and retail sales show signs of slowing.

Auto distributor Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd. is the top performer on the Straits Times Index this year, up 72%, followed by utilities firm Sembcorp Industries Ltd.’s 53% advance. Shares of DBS Group Holdings Ltd., the biggest stock on the gauge, are up 2.3%.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.