FBM KLCI slumps 20.55 points to finish at intraday low

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 21): The FBM KLCI slid 20.55 points or 1.22% as investors sold banking shares on expectations that Bank Negara Malaysia may cut interest rates amid lower domestic consumer prices. Plantation and glove manufacturers' shares also fell as the ringgit strengthened.
At 5pm, the KLCI settled at 1,663.66. Among the 30 KLCI stocks, worst hit, in percentage terms, was AMMB Holdings Bhd followed by PPB Group Bhd and Top Glove Corp Bhd.

AMMB closed down 14 sen or 3.04% at RM4.47, PPB fell 50 sen or 2.73% to RM17.82 while Top Glove dropped 12 sen or 2.62% to RM4.46. The ringgit strengthened to 4.0610 against the US dollar at the time of writing after appreciating to its strongest intraday level at 4.0545 following the US' announcement of a more dovish monetary stance.

Reuters reported that the US Federal Reserve's new projection knocked the number of interest rate hikes expected this year to zero from the two forecast in December in the face of an apparent jump in economic risks.

In Malaysia, Malacca Securities Sdn Bhd senior analyst Kenneth Leong told theedgemarkets.com: “Notable decliners were banking heavyweights, on expectations that Bank Negara may adopt an easing monetary policy, by trimming its overnight policy rate to combat the slowdown in Malaysia’s economic growth.”

Plantation shares fell due to expectation that a firmer ringgit will make Malaysian palm oil more expensive in world markets. Export-based glove manufacturers' shares dropped as a stronger ringgit means these companies' US dollar-based earnings will be less in ringgit terms.

The Malaysian stock market's performance is also closely watched ahead of the country's February inflation data release after January data showed prices fell into deflationary territory for the first time since November 2009.

February inflation data, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), is scheduled for release tomorrow (March 22), according to the Statistics Department's website.