FBM KLCI gains 11.07 points as US rate hike pans out as expected

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 22): The FBM KLCI gained 11.07 points or 0.6%, mainly on Hong Leong Bank Bhd and Malayan Banking Bhd's (Maybank) 11th-hour share price spike to close among Bursa Malaysia top gainers. The KLCI rose as the ringgit strengthened despite the US' interest rate hike, which has been priced in by investors.

At 5pm, the KLCI closed at its intraday high of 1,876.87, which is the highest since 2015. Hong Leong Bank shares rose 52 sen to RM19.22 while Maybank was 26 sen higher at RM10.54.

“There is no surprise from the US Fed rate hike," JF Apex Securities Bhd head of research Lee Chung Cheng said.

CNBC reported that US central bankers, led by Jerome Powell in his first meeting as chairman, approved the widely expected quarter-point hike that puts the new benchmark funds rate at a target of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and forecast two more hikes for 2018, based on board members' median projection. Given that some investors had expected it to project three more rate hikes, the guidance was perceived as less hawkish than anticipated, a positive factor for risk assets in general.

Such sentiment augured well for Asian markets today.Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 0.99% while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.44%. In currency markets, the ringgit strengthened to 3.9135 against a weaker US dollar at the time of writing.

FXTM head of currency strategy & market research Jameel Ahmad wrote in a note today: "The Malaysian ringgit has remained resilient against the US dollar, despite the Federal Reserve raising US interest rates overnight.

"Investors were generally disappointed with the US interest rate rise from the Fed, and the dollar index dropped in the aftermath. This was mostly because the US interest rate increase was already priced into market expectations a long time ago, however, confidence in the dollar weakened when it was indicated that the Federal Reserve was not planning to raise US interest rates four times this year."