KLCI falls 19.45pts, ringgit weakens ahead of central bank rate decision

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KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 5): The FBM KLCI fell 19.45 points or 1.07% as investors reacted to China's lower economic growth forecast while awaiting Bank Negara Malaysia's interest rate decision.

Investors are also anticipating US employment data tomorrow for pointers on the timing of interest rate hikes in the world's largest economy.
 
In Malaysia, the KLCI closed at 1,806.09 points at 5pm on drops in stocks like SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd after vice chairman Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir resigned from its board.

Banking stocks CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and Public Bank Bhd also traded lower ahead of Bank Negara's monetary policy statement later today.
 
A remisier told theedegemarkets.com that the weaker ringgit "remained the key factor that dragged down the broadr market."

The ringgit depreciated against the US dollar to 3.6540 as at 4.24pm. For comparison, ringgit was stronger against Singapore Dollar (SGD) at 2.6694 at 4.26pm.

Across Bursa Malaysia, decliners outnumbered gainers by 556 to 288 with 292 counters unchanged. Some 2.38 billion shares worth RM2.14 billion changed hands.

Top decliners included PPB Group Bhd, Petronas Dagangan Bhd and Genting Bhd.

Leading gainers included British American Tobacco (M) Bhd, ECS ICT Bhd and Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd.

The most active stocks included Ingenuity Consolidated Bhd, Perisai Petroleum Teknologi Bhd and KNM Group Bhd.

Across Asia, Japan Nikkei 225 rose 0.26% while South Korea's Kospi ended flat. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.11%.

Reuters reported that Asian stocks slipped on Thursday after Wall Street continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday's closely-watched US jobs data, while the nervous euro languished at an 11-year low prior to the European Central Bank's policy meeting.

The global markets will look to Friday's U.S. jobs data for further confirmation that the world's largest economy is recovering enough to justify a rate hike.

Bloomberg reported that China's economic growth goal of about 7 percent, down from last year’s 7.5 percent target, was given in Premier Li Keqiang’s work report at the annual meeting of the legislature in Beijing today.