The Malaysia stock market has moved higher now in four consecutive trading days, rising more than 15 points or 1 percent in that span. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index ended just above the 1,630-point plateau, and now analysts are forecasting a round of profit taking at the opening of trade on Thursday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is flat with a touch of weakness, with mixed economic data likely tempered by profit taking after the markets rallied in the previous session. Eurozone industrial production fell less than expected in December, while retail sales in the United States crept up just 0.1 percent in January. The European markets were higher and the U.S. bourses were mixed, and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.
The KLCI finished modestly higher on Wednesday after the long holiday weekend, thanks to support from the financial shares, industrial issues and plantation stocks.
For the day, the index added 7.36 points or 0.45 percent to finish at 1,631.16 after trading between 1,627.46 and 1,633.71. Volume was 758.96 million shares worth 1.1 billion ringgit. There were 376 gainers and 209 decliners, with 247 stocks finishing unchanged.
Among the actives, RHB Capital climbed 1.31 percent, while CIMB Group collected 0.97 percent, Public Bank added 0.76 percent, Kuala Lumpur Kepong jumped 1.78 percent, Sime Darby eased 0.11 percent, Petronas Gas gained 0.87 percent and Petronas Chemicals spiked 1.67 percent.
The lead from Wall Street conveys little guidance as stocks turned in another lackluster performance on Wednesday, extending the trend seen over the past few sessions. The major averages eventually ended the day mixed for the second consecutive session.
Uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets contributed to choppy trading, as the Commerce Department's closely watched monthly retail sales report did not provide much momentum for the markets in either direction. While the report showed that retail sales edged up by just 0.1 percent in January, economists noted that it could have been worse in light of the recent increase in payroll taxes.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed that import prices rebounded by less than expected in January, while export prices rose in line with estimates.
Traders also digested President Barack Obama's State of the Union address from Tuesday night, although it remains to be seen how much progress can be made in light of the gridlock in Washington. Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage as well as a boost to investment in infrastructure. The president also continued to push his proposals on immigration, gun control, and climate change.
Among individual stocks, Comcast (CMCSA) posted a notable gain after the cable company agreed to acquire General Electric's (GE) entire 49 percent stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture for about $16.7 billion, taking full control of the media company earlier than expected. Comcast rose 3 percent on the news, while GE also advanced 3.6 percent.
Shares of Albemarle (ALB) also moved sharply higher after the specialty chemical company announced a 20 percent increase in its dividend and increased its share repurchase authorization.
On the other hand, Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) tumbled by 20 percent after the mining and natural resources company slashed its quarterly cash dividend by 76 percent.
The major U.S. averages were mixed again on Wednesday as the Dow shed 35.79 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 13,982.91, while the NASDAQ added 10.39 points or 0.3 percent to close at 3,196.88, and the S&P 500 inched up 0.90 points or 0.1 percent to end at 1,520.33.
by RTT Staff Writer
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