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Malaysia Stock May Challenge Record High

The Malaysia stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions, rising more than a dozen points or 0.9 percent in the process. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index finished just shy of its record high of the 1,597, and now traders are hoping to break higher into uncharted territory when the market opens on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is upbeat after Eurozone finance ministers decided to raise the combined size of the region's bailout funds to prevent the possible spillover of the debt crisis in some member states - although mixed economic data could limit the upside. The European markets finished higher and the U.S. bourses were mixed - and the Asian markets are tipped to split the difference.

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

For the day, the index climbed 10.89 points or 0.62 percent to finish at the daily high of 1,596.33 after trading as low as 1,588.54. Volume was 1.245 billion shares worth 2.083 billion ringgit. There were 402 gainers and 360 decliners, with 334 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Maybank, CIMB Group, Petronas Chemicals and Focus Dynamics Technologies all finished higher, while Sime Darby was unchanged and Carotech ended lower.

The lead from Wall Street suggests mild upside as stocks were lackluster on Friday, with traders expressing uncertainty about the outlook for the markets following the strong first quarter. The choppy trading came as traders seemed reluctant to make any significant moves on the heels of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data.

The Commerce Department reported that personal spending rose 0.8 percent in February following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in January. Economists had expected an increase of 0.6 percent following the 0.2 percent growth originally reported for the previous month. Meanwhile, personal income edged up 0.2 percent in February, matching the downwardly revised increase in January. Personal income had been expected to increase by 0.4 percent.

A separate report from Reuters and the University of Michigan showed that the consumer sentiment index for March was upwardly revised to a reading of 76.2 from the preliminary reading of 74.3. With the upward revision, the March reading is up from 75.3 in February and above forecasts of 75.0.

On the other hand, the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago reported that its business barometer fell to 62.2 in March from 64.0 in February, although a reading above 50 still indicates an increase in business activity. Economists had expected the index to show a more modest drop to a reading of 63.0.

Among individual stocks, Research In Motion (RIMM) spiked 7.1 percent even though the BlackBerry maker reported weaker than expected fourth quarter results. The company also said it expects continued pressure on revenue and earnings throughout fiscal 2013.

The major U.S. averages were mixed on Friday, with the tech-heavy NASDAQ edging down 3.79 points or 0.1 percent to finish at 3,091.57. The Dow rose 66.22 points or 0.5 percent to end at 13,212.04 and the S&P 500 climbed 5.19 points or 0.4 percent to close at 1,408.47. Despite the mixed performance, the major averages all moved sharply higher for the first quarter. The Dow advanced by 8.1 percent for the quarter, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 surged up by 18.7 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

In economic news, Malaysia's producer price index market increased 4.3 percent annually in February, the Department of Statistics said on Friday, while the local production index advanced 5.4 percent. Month-on-month, output prices for the domestic market rose 0.5 percent and prices of local production increased 0.7 percent. In February, import prices climbed 1.7 percent year-on-year. On a monthly basis, import prices edged up 0.2 percent in February.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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