KLCI rises 18.19pts on foreign buying, ringgit strengthens

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KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 24): The FBM KLCI rose 18.19 points or 1.01% on foreign fund buying amid a stronger ringgit.

At 5pm, the KLCI settled at 1,814.04 points on gains in stocks like PPB Group Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) and Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Areca Capital Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Danny Wong said: “The big-cap companies had pushed up the index while the small-cap companies underperformed today."

“This suggests the possibility that there’s some sentiment that foreign funds are returning. Last week, foreign funds were a net buyer so we hope this will continue,” Wong said.

Bursa Malaysia saw 1.95 billion shares worth RM1.834 billion traded.

Decliners edged out gainers by 415 against 400 while 329 counters remained unchanged.

Top gainers included PPB, KLK and Tenaga. Decliners were led by Hong Leong Capital Bhd and Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd.

The top active stock was Asia Bioenergy Technologies Bhd.

The firmer ringgit was closely watched. The ringgit strengthened to 3.6490 versus the US dollar and compared to the Singapore dollar, the ringgit appreciated to 2.6734.

Bloomberg reported that the ringgit headed for its biggest two-day gain since September 2013 on further signs the U.S. central bank will refrain from tightening policy until the second half, easing concern that cash will flow out from Malaysian assets.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said on Monday in New York there won’t be a “smooth upward path” for rates, with the first increase potentially late in 2015. The reprieve for Malaysia could be temporary as HSBC Holdings Plc forecasts the nation’s central bank will cut its benchmark rate to 3% from 3.25% in the second quarter.

Across Asian share markets, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.23% while Japan's Nikkei 225 dipped 0.21%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.39%.

Reuters reported that the index of Asian shares swung between positive and negative territory today after data showed that Chinese factory output cantered to an 11-month low, highlighting weakness in the economy.

The report stated that the flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dipped to 49.2 in March, below the 50.6 consensus of economists polled by the news agency.