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Steady Start Tipped For Malaysia Stock Market

The Malaysia stock market on Friday halted the two-day slide in which it had fallen more than 15 points or 1 percent. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index settled just above the 1,555-point plateau, and now analysts are forecasting continued upside at the opening of trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed to higher on optimism that European finance ministers will approve a new bailout package for Greece later in the day. Limiting the upside are rising tensions in the Middle East as Iran has discontinued the sale of oil to any British of French companies, in response to the latest round of EU sanctions - although the price of oil is climbing as a result. The European markets were mixed on Friday and the U.S. bourses were mixed, and the Asian markets are expected to split the difference.

The KLCI finished modestly higher on Friday following gains from the financial shares, industrial issues and plantation stocks.

For the day, the index collected 6.66 points or 0.43 percent to finish at 1,557.15 after trading between 1,553.68 and 1,559.92. Volume was 2.265 billion shares worth 1.942 billion ringgit. There were 511 gainers and 304 decliners, with 346 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Tasek Corp, Batu Kawan, British American Tobacco, Maybank, Sime Darby and CIMB Group all finished higher, while Petronas Chemicals was unchanged.

The lead from Wall Street is inconclusive as stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance on Friday after showing a strong upward move in the previous session. Nonetheless, optimism that European finance ministers will approve a new bailout package for Greece on Monday helped to keep traders from doing much profit taking.

The markets largely shrugged off a report from the Labor Department showing that its consumer price index rose by 0.2 percent in January after coming in unchanged in the previous month. Economists had expected an increase of 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index also rose by 0.2 percent in January after edging up by 0.1 percent in December - in line with economist estimates.

A separate report from the Conference Board showed that its index of leading economic indicators increased for the fourth consecutive month in January. The leading economic index rose by 0.4 percent in January following a revised 0.5 percent increase in December. Economists had been expecting the index to increase by 0.5 percent compared to the 0.4 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Among individual stocks, food maker H.J. Heinz (HNZ) rose by 4.6 percent after reporting stronger than expected third quarter earnings and narrowing its full year earnings outlook. Meanwhile, shares of Nordstrom (JWN) fell by 2 percent after the upscale department store operator reported better than expected fourth quarter earnings but forecast full year 2012 earnings below analyst estimates.

The major averages ended the session mixed, with the tech-heavy NASDAQ posting a loss of 8.07 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 2,951.78. The Dow climbed 45.79 points or 0.4 percent to 12,989.87 and the S&P 500 edged up 3.19 points or 0.2 percent to 1,361.23. The major averages all moved higher for the week. The Dow rose by 1.2 percent to its best closing level in well over three years, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 advanced 1.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

by RTT Staff Writer

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