STOCKS NEWS SINGAPORE-Index down; banks on the defensive

Fri Jun 7, 2013 1:13am EDT

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Singapore shares fell for a third consecutive session and were poised for their biggest weekly decline in nearly two years, as banking shares came under pressure over concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve may reduce its monetary stimulus programme.

The Straits Times Index fell as much as 0.5 percent to 3,178.82, its lowest since mid-January, while the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.7 percent.

Shares of DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Singapore's biggest lender, dropped 1.2 percent to S$15.82, its lowest in more than six weeks. The stock was headed for a 7.2 percent drop from a week earlier, its sharpest weekly fall since August 2009.

United Overseas Bank Ltd fell 1.1 percent to an intra-day low of S$20.11, on course for its biggest weekly decline in more than a year.

"We believe the key challenge for Singapore banks is managing margin pressure given the intense competition on loan pricing driven by foreign players and deposit pricing as system liquidity tightens," said Barclays in a research note.

Regional business will be the key growth drivers for these banks, it said. Barclays kept a neutral outlook on the sector, preferring UOB with a target price of $24.

Among other stocks, shares of CapitaLand Ltd, Southeast Asia's biggest property developer, fell as much as 2.1 percent to S$3.27, extending their decline for the third consecutive session.

1158 (0358 GMT)

(Reporting by Joyce Lim and Rujun Shen in Singapore; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee) (lim.huilian.thomsonreuters.com)

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