STOCKS NEWS SINGAPORE-Shares rise on positive China data

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:34pm EST

Singapore shares marched higher by midday in line with other Asian bourses as positive data about China bolstered confidence that the world's second largest economy was recovering.

By 0426 GMT, the Straits Times Index (STI) was up 0.4 percent at 3208.36 points, while the the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent.

Franklin Templeton Investments said it expects China to show stronger growth in 2013, as stimulus measures work their way through the system.

"China's PMI (purchasing managers' index) has already turned around very smartly as a result of government measures to boost the economy," said Dennis Lim, portfolio manager at Templeton Emerging Markets Group.

China's economy grew 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 from a year earlier, official data showed, strengthening from 7.4 percent in the third quarter -- the lowest since the depths of the global financial crisis.

Palm oil firm Wilmar International Ltd, which has a large exposure to Chinese markets, was up 1 percent at S$3.68, making it one of the largest gainers on the STI.

Around 1.7 million Fraser and Neave Ltd shares exchanged hands in a bloc trade at S$9.60, above its current share price of S$9.55.

Singapore's securities watchdog set a Sunday deadline for Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and a group led by Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd to raise their respective offers to buy F&N.

1227 (0427 GMT)

(Reporting by Charmian Kok in Singapore; Editing by Sunil Nair; charmian.kok@thomsonreuters.com)

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10:37 STOCKS NEWS SINGAPORE-Maybank upgrades Wilmar to 'buy'

Maybank Kim Eng upgraded palm oil company Wilmar International Ltd to 'buy' from 'sell' and raised its target price to S$4.65 from S$2.75, on expectations its earnings will improve along with a recovery in its biggest market China.

By 0230 GMT, Wilmar shares were flat at S$3.64, having risen nearly 9 percent since the start of the year, compared with the Straits Times Index's 1.2 percent gains.

Expectations of low crude palm oil (CPO) prices in 2013 will benefit Wilmar, as it is a net buyer of CPO, although it owns some plantations, Maybank said, adding that lower feedstock cost will likely improve margins of its refining, trading and consumer divisions.

An improvement in China, which accounts for almost 50 percent of Wilmar's revenue, will boost the palm oil company and its plans to cut back capital expenditure will strengthen its balance sheet.

"With China's soybean imports hitting a surprising high towards the end of 2012, we believe earnings surprises lie ahead," said Maybank in a report.

1031 (0231 GMT)