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Narrow Range Expected For Malaysia Stock Market

The Malaysia stock market has finished lower now in back-to-back sessions, falling more than a dozen points or 0.8 percent along the way. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index finished just above the 1,580 point plateau, and now analysts are forecasting little movement for the market at the opening of trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed, with caution likely to reign ahead of key U.S. employment data that comes out later in the day. Lending support was a separate U.S. Labor Department report showing a modest drop in jobless claims in the week ended March 31. That was mitigated by concerns over the situation in Spain and the weaker than expected German industrial production number. The European and U.S. markets were mixed and the Asian bourses are expected to follow suit.

The KLCI finished slightly lower on Thursday as losses from the financial shares and industrial issues were offset by support from the plantation stocks.

For the day, the index shed 5.83 points or 0.36 percent to finish at 1,583.75 after trading between 1,591.85 and 1,596.46. Volume was 1.14 billion shares worth 1.22 billion ringgit. There were 352 decliners and 342 gainers, with 317 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Maybank, CIMB Group, Sime Darby and Petronas Chemicals all finished lower, while Metronic Global, Naim Indah, Ariantec Global and Focus Dynamics ended higher.

The lead from Wall Street provides little clarity as stocks showed a lack of direction on Thursday, with some traders looking to get a head start on the long weekend. Uncertainty about Friday's monthly employment report also contributed to the choppy trading.

Many traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of Friday's jobs report for March, which is expected to show the addition of at least 200,000 jobs for the fourth month in a row in March, although the unemployment rate is expected to remain elevated at 8.3 percent. With the markets closed for Good Friday, traders will wait until Monday to react to the actual numbers.

Investors largely shrugged off a separate Labor Department report showing a modest drop in jobless claims in the week ended March 31. Jobless claims fell to 357,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 363,000 versus forecasts for a gain to 360,000 from the 359,000 originally reported for the previous week. With the decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since 352,000 in the week ended April 19, 2008.

Among individual stocks, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) rose 8.5 percent after the home furnishings retailer reported better than expected fourth quarter results. But shares of Ruby Tuesday's (RT) fell 18.1 percent after the restaurant operator reported disappointing third quarter revenues.

While the NASDAQ rose 12.41 points or 0.4 percent to finish at 3,080.50, the Dow edged down 14.61 points or 0.1 percent to end at 13,060.14 and the S&P 500 slipped 0.88 points or 0.1 percent to 1,398.08. The major averages all moved lower for the holiday-shortened week. The Dow fell by 1.1 percent, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 dropped by 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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