KLCI closes at YTD high after Fed stayed on hold, with oil above US$41

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 18): The FBM KLCI saw it strongest trading day in 2016 thus far, closing up 13.15 points or 0.77% to finish at 1,716.34 points at the close of trading hours today, in line with other Asian markets, since the US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday.

The decision, reached at a two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that begun on Tuesday, resulted in renewed investor confidence in emerging markets.

Inter-Pacific Securities head of research Pong Teng Siew said the inflow of foreign funds has been instrumental in the local market's uplifting performance.

"In fact, there has been a sustained inflow of foreign funds since Jan 22, after the announcement by Bank Negara Malaysia of the reduction in the statutory reserve requirement from 4% to 3.5% with effect from Feb 1, 2016. This has boosted banking stocks in particular," he told theedgemarkets.com.

In its market strategy report today, AmInvestment Bank said the latest data from Bursa Malaysia showed that foreign ownership ratio rose from 22% in January 2016 to 23% in February 2016.

At 5pm today, the ringgit strengthened by 0.07% to 4.0533 against the greenback, from 4.0563 yesterday.

The local note also strengthened against the Singapore dollar by 0.16% to 2.9835, compared with its close of 2.9882 yesterday.

Throughout the trading session today, the FBM KLCI saw 2.03 billion shares, valued at RM2.98 billion, traded.

There were 538 gainers against 349 losers, while 317 counters were unchanged.

Rounding up the day's top gainers were Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd, Petronas Gas Bhd, Pos Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and Scientex Bhd.

Losers included Nestle (M) Bhd, BLD Plantation Bhd, Latitude Tree Holdings Bhd and Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd.

The most actively traded counter was SMTrack Bhd, with 77.64 million shares changing hands.

Regionally, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 167.82 points (0.82%), South Korea's KOSPI rose 4.13 points (0.21%), and Singapore's Straits Times Index gained 15.07 points (0.52%).

Japan's Nikkei 225, however, was down 211.57 points (1.25%), while the Stock Exchange of Thailand slipped 0.43 points (0.03%).

According to Reuters, Asian shares edged higher on Friday as oil touched a 2016 high.

"Brent crude held close to its three-month high of US$41.60 reached in the previous session and again on Friday. It's headed for a 3% gain for the week," said the news agency.