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Tight Range Called For Malaysia Stock Market

The Malaysia stock market on Friday snapped the two-day slide in which it had fallen just 7 points or 0.4 percent. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index finished just below the 1,560-point plateau, and now investors are looking for continued if mild consolidation when the market kicks off trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a hint of downside as investors figure to remain cautious regarding lingering concerns over the debt situation in Europe, as well as geopolitical tensions concerning Syria and Iran. Steel and oil companies are expected to provide support, with gold and airlines called lower. The European and U.S. markets were mixed but little changed on Friday, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow suit.

The KLCI finished slightly higher on Friday as gains from the plantation stocks were wiped out by losses from the financial shares and industrial issues.

For the day, the index added 2.11 points or 0.14 percent to finish at 1,558.77 after trading between 1,553.62 and 1,559.64. Volume was 1.695 billion shares worth 1.941 billion ringgit. There were 425 gainers and 373 decliners, with 344 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Maybank, Telekom Malaysia, China Stationery and Naim Indah all moved higher, while Media Shoppe was unchanged and Sime Darby, Petronas Chemicals and CIMB Group all ended lower.

The lead from Wall Street remains ambiguous as stocks showed a lack of direction on Friday with traders reluctant to make any significant moves. The major averages lingered near the unchanged line for most of the session, eventually ending the day mixed pending questions about whether the global economic situation supports further upside for the markets.

Traders largely shrugged off a report from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan showing that the consumer sentiment index for February was upwardly revised to 75.3 from the mid-month reading of 72.5. Economists had expected the index to be upwardly revised to 73.0 after showing 75.0 in January. The index is now at its highest level since February of 2011.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that new home sales slipped 0.9 percent to an annual rate of 321,000 in January from the revised December rate of 324,000. Economists had expected new home sales to edge up to 315,000 from the 307,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Among individual stocks, Nordson (NDSN) and Salesforce.com (CRM) posted strong gains after reporting better than expected quarterly results. Meanwhile, J.C. Penney (JCP) ended the day modestly lower after the department store operator reported a fourth quarter loss compared to a year-ago profit. Excluding restructuring charges, however, the company reported a profit that exceeded analyst estimates.

After reaching a high above the key 13,000 level, the Dow gave back some ground, closing down 1.74 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 12,982.95. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ rose 6.77 points or 0.2 percent to 2,963.75 and the S&P 500 climbed 2.25 points or 0.2 percent to 1,365.74. Despite the mixed performance on the day, the major averages all posted modest gains for the week. The NASDAQ advanced by 0.4 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 both rose by 0.3 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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