KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- Singapore shares fell broadly Thursday amid concerns over rising trade risks and capital outflow from emerging markets while Malaysia was a tad lower ahead of the extended weekend.
The Straits Times Index ended 0.6% lower at 3225.72. The FBM KLCI edged down 0.1% at 1819.66 and ended August with a monthly gain of 2%. Bursa Malaysia will be shut on Friday for Independence Day celebration.
Market sentiment remains fragile over lingering U.S.-China trade conflict, while the Argentinian peso has tumbled to a record low, said CMC Markets Analyst Margaret Yang. "This could trigger an emerging market currency rout just like what happened with the Turkish lira not too long ago," she cautioned.
Investors are shrugging off the fourth consecutive record closes for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite amid signs that Canada may join a trade agreement with the U.S. The news comes days after the U.S. and Mexico revived a deal on bilateral trade.
Still, concerns over Sino-American trade relations shrouded Asia with the Nikkei A300 Index falling 0.4%. Investors are also digesting mixed corporate earnings results in Malaysia and Singapore with the June-end season drawing to a close.
In Malaysia, oil-and-gas services firms rose on hopes of better contract flows after the national petroleum company Petronas more-than-doubled its net profit in the second quarter. Dialog Group rose 1.5% while Bumi Armada was up 5.7%. Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering gained 0.8%.
"Going forward, we expect the rising momentum of fresh awards to gain traction, partly driven by Petronas' downstream focus, together with the resumption of massive offshore developments in Brazil and West Africa," said AmInvestment Bank analyst Alex Goh.
Serba Dinamik Holdings, which also services the oil and gas industry, rose 1.6% after posting an above-estimate 24% rise in second-quarter net profit.
Telekom Malaysia slumped 7.3% to after reporting a 52% plunge in second-quarter net profit and warning that new government regulations could weigh on financial performance.
Malayan Banking, Malaysia's largest lender by assets, fell 0.4% despite reporting an 18.1% rise in second quarter net profit.
Singapore Telecommunications rose 1.9% following news that its Australian rivals -- Vodafone Hutchinson Australia and TPG Telecom - have agreed to a merger. Analysts say Singtel's Australian operation Optus stands to gain from fewer competitors in a major market.
TPG Telecom is set to enter Singapore as the fourth player, likely by year end, joining the two other telcos, StarHub and M1, in an increasingly crowded market. StarHub closed 2.5% higher while M1 lost 1.3%.
CapitaLand rose 0.3% after Singapore property giant said it had bought a prime residential site in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for 1.38 trillion Vietnamese dong ($59.4 million).
- Alexander Winifred and Joannah Perez