Singaporean stocks: a cheap play on life after Covid

Singapore is returning to normal after the pandemic, with almost every sector in the stockmarket set to benefit.

The post-pandemic era has arrived in Singapore, says Daniel Moss on Bloomberg. Last week the city-state scrapped limits on group size and office working. “Many venues will no longer require folks to check in with the government contract-tracing app.” After two years of “uber-caution”, authorities have shifted with uncharacteristic haste. Fear that “onerous rules” were denting Singapore’s position as “a premier aviation hub” helped drive the decision to re-open. Trade-dependent Singapore “cares deeply about its reputation abroad”.

“The Singapore market stands out as a shelter in the current stagflation environment,” says Paul Chew of Phillip Capital. “Almost every sector… enjoys a tailwind. Transport, telecoms, retail and hospitality, which make up 20% of the Straits Times Index (STI), will benefit from the reopening of borders. Banks, which account for 45%, will get a “huge lift” from rising rates: a one percentage point rise in interest rates could increase earnings by 18%. The tech sector – once hot, but now struggling globally – is just 2% of the STI. The biggest Singapore-based tech stock is video games and e-commerce firm Sea, which is listed in New York instead. It’s down 61% this year. 

That mix has helped the STI gain a healthy 7.5% this year (the MSCI Singapore index – which includes Sea – is down 6%). It doesn’t make up for an annualised return of just 5.2% in the five years to 31 March – partly due to its high weighting to financial stocks – compared with a global average return of 13%, but the long spell of underperformance has left it looking comparatively cheap. “Current valuations remain undemanding,” reckons Adrian Loh of UOB Kay Hian. At 3,350, the index is trading on 13.5 times forecast earnings for 2022, with a forecast yield of 4.1%. 

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