Singapore has the perfect stocks blend to weather 2022’s woes just as stagflation concerns are spurring losses across the world’s biggest developed markets.
Straits Times Index, the small Asian city-state’s equities benchmark, has eked out a gain of about 1% so far this year, making the cyclical-heavy measure the only developed-market gauge in positive territory in dollar terms. In contrast, a world gauge is down almost 23% 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.
“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.
Shares of DBS Group Holdings Ltd., the biggest stock on the STI gauge, are up nearly 3% this year. Auto distributor Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd. is the top performer, up 71%, while utilities firm Sembcorp Industries Ltd. has seen its stock jump almost 54%.
The Singapore 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 labour 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, the 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.