KLCI ends choppy morning session higher, profit-taking caps gains

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 26): The FBM KLCI stood 0.77% higher at the noon market break after a choppy start, as investors digested the extent of the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to address the impact.

At 12.30pm, the benchmark KLCI index rose 10.23 points to 1,334.73, after touching a low of 1,309.21 earlier.

Across Bursa Malaysia, trading volume was healthy with 1.98 billion shares exchanging hands, valued at some RM1.08 billion.

Broad-based swings occurred in the wider market on short-lived selling interest after the recent back-to-back rally, with new coronavirus cases on the rise in Malaysia ahead of a revised stimulus package announcement on Friday.

Big caps and consumer stocks led Bursa Malaysia’s top gainers, namely Nestle (M) Bhd, Fraser & Neave Bhd and Panasonic Manufacturing (M) Bhd.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd and PPB Group Bhd led the top losers on profit-taking, followed by Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd.

Gainers led decliners with 538 counters versus 221, while 273 counters traded unchanged.

Asian markets, meanwhile, traded choppy, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 3.17%, South Korea’s Kospi up 0.91% and Hong Kong’s HSI relatively flat at the time of writing.

Reuters reported that a two-day equities rally lost momentum on Thursday, and investors sold riskier currencies, as stimulus negotiations dragged on in Washington and investors fretted over a likely spike in US jobless claims.

However, the ringgit held steady against the US dollar and other emerging market currencies.

Against the greenback, the ringgit rose 0.8% to 4.3551. The Malaysian currency also strengthened against the Singapore dollar (up 0.8% to 3.0085), the Australian dollar (up 1.23% to 2.5843) and the British pound (up 1.06% to 5.1612).

“The improved ringgit sentiment comes despite the Malaysian economy, which will pay the considerable upfront cost for extending the Mandatory Control Order,” said AxiCorp chief market strategist Stephen Innes in a note.

“Still, with a robust policy backstop from the Bank Negara Malaysia, and government support, the thought is the economy will return to standard form quicker,” the note said.

At the time of writing, Malaysia has witnessed 21 deaths from Covid-19 virus. Confirmed cases climbed to 1,796 with 172 new cases reported, while 199 patients have been cured.