Malaysia stocks close higher ahead of holiday

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 21): Malaysia stocks closed marginally higher today, ahead of the Hari Raya Haji public holiday tomorrow (Aug 22).

The benchmark FBM KLCI traded within a narrow range of 1,788.86 points to 1,798.11 points, to close up 10.53 points or 0.59% at 1,798.11 points, propped up by gains in AMMB Holdings Bhd, Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd (HLFG) and Allianz Malaysia Bhd.

Trading volume increased to 2.52 billion shares worth RM2.43 billion compared with 2.28 billion shares worth RM2.04 billion yesterday.

Shares of AMMB closed up 14 sen or 3.63%, while HLFG and Allianz gained 18 sen and 50 sen respectively.

Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd head of research Pong Teng Siew noted that although the KLCI ended the day higher, market breadth was negative. Across Bursa Malaysia, there were 506 losers compared with 359 gainers.

"Overall market sentiment was mixed," he told theedgemarkets.com.

Pong highlighted that several construction companies saw their share prices fall after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced in China earlier today that the East Coast Rail Link and the two pipeline projects will be cancelled for now due to the current government's fiscal position. The counters included HSS Engineers Bhd (-16.37%), Gabungan AQRS Bhd (-8.76%) and DKLS Industries Bhd (-7.18%).

However, the market saw gains in defensive consumer stocks such as Nestle (Malaysia) Bhd, Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Bhd and Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd.

"The consumer stocks were outperforming the broader market today. When defensive stocks are up, this reflects the investors' general risk sentiment that they are more cautious right now," Pong added.

Across Asia, Reuters reported that stocks rose today, supported by hopes that Beijing and Washington would dial back trade hostilities, though comments from the US president about the yuan and the US Federal Reserve policy capped gains and weighed on the US dollar.

It was reported that immediate focus was on the lower-level trade talks due to start this week between the US and China. Speculation that the talks might help ease trade tensions has shored up the broader equity markets over the past few sessions, according to Reuters.

South Korea's KOSPI gained 0.99% and Japan's Nikkei advanced 0.1%. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed more than 1%, while the Jakarta index closed 0.88% higher and Singapore's Straits Times Index was marginally down 0.15%.