The Straits Times Index (STI) is traditionally taken as the barometer of the S’pore stock market and the two ETFs that track it are the most liquid of the ETFs.
But should the STI and the two ETFs be as popular as they should be?
The reason is the presence of the Jardine Matheson, Jardine Strategic and Hongkong Land in the STI, which do not reflect the S’pore economy although apologists point to the operations of Cycle & Carriage Cold Storage, Guardian and Giant embedded within JM. While not peanuts, they are tiny in the Jardines scheme of things. And, to boot, they are illiquid and tightly held via cross holdings.
In theory, this means that the STI can be manipulated by judicious buying or selling of these counters. I stress “in theory” because there is no evidence that the STI has been manipulated by the trading of these three counters.
Sometime back, BT wrote,”The STI’s guardians last week defended Jardine’s inclusion using reasoning that went something like this: ‘we have a set of criteria for index inclusion that Jardine meets, so they’re included’.”
BT went on to to say, “Conveniently omitted is what those criteria are; more interesting is the question of why it is that Jardine Matheson, Jardine Strategic and Hongkong Land, which are in the STI, are not in the more widely-followed MSCI Singapore Free Index*?”. Add to that the FT S’pore Index.
*Widely followed by the pros but not the retail punters. The ETF based on this is illiquid, as it is expensive in dollar terms.