THE market's robust performance in March was the game-changer that allowed the total value of listed companies here to rise in the first quarter.

The 800 or so companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) were worth $915.88 billion at the close of trade yesterday, about 2 per cent higher than the value of $899.37 billion at Dec 31.

It was quite a turnaround. In January and February, the value of the bourse had been lower than in December but a solid rise in March shot the market back into the black.

The benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) rose 2.5 per cent during the month, and is now up 0.7 per cent. March's rally was due to economic developments in the United States and China.

Recent economic data has generated more confidence in the US economy and given hope that stock markets worldwide will be able to withstand the slowdown in money-printing and eventual rise in benchmark interest rates.

CMC Markets analyst Kenny Kan noted that recent consumer spending figures were encouraging, reflecting the underlying strength of the economy.

"That shifted the focus back to fundamentals rather than worries about tapering."

Tapering refers to the step-by-step reduction in the massive money-printing programme of the US Federal Reserve.

On the other hand, investors are cheering sluggish data in China, which may herald more stimulus measures.

"On the China front, the Purchasing Managers' Index has not been very encouraging," said Mr Kan, referring to a major indicator of manufacturing activity. "That gives more headroom for China policymakers to implement more economic stimulus measures."

Just last week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the government had prepared policies and would roll out infrastructure investment to help the economy.

"We have gathered experience from successfully battling the economic downturn last year and we have policies in store to counter economic volatility for this year," Mr Li said.

STI component stock SingTel continued to be the largest company on Singapore's bourse, with a market value of $58.157 billion yesterday, down 0.3 per cent on its value at Dec 31.

SingTel reported in February that contributions from its regional associates helped boost its bottom line in the third quarter.

Net profit for the three months to Dec 31 hit $872 million, up 5.5 per cent over the same period a year earlier. And last month, SingTel won the exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup.

"We do not expect the event to have much of an impact on SingTel's financial year 2014 performance," said a note from OCBC Investment Research. "For now, we continue to maintain our 'buy' rating on the stock with an unchanged fair value of $3.74."

Jardine Matheson Holdings was the second-largest company. It was worth $54.098 billion, up 19.8 per cent from Dec 31.