KLCI closes lower amid trade war fears in Asia on US tariffs

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 2): The Malaysian stock market closed in negative territory today amid concerns across Asia of a potential trade war after US President Donald Trump announced import tariff on steel and aluminium.

At 5pm today, the benchmark FBM KLCI closed 4.79 points or 0.26% lower at 1,856.07 points, after trading in the range of 1,854.25 to 1,860.64 during the day.

When contacted, Malacca Securities Sdn Bhd senior research analyst Kenneth Leong told theedgemarkets.com that the KLCI's performance was in line with the weakness across the global stock market.

"The weakness came after Trump's announcement on steel and aluminium import tariffs. Notable losers in Malaysia were (steel players) Ann Joo Resources Bhd, Southern Steel Bhd and Malaysia Steel Works (KL) Bhd," he said.

Leong explained that investors are concerned that the unfavourable fluctuation in metal prices may affect the steel companies' earnings moving forward.

Reuters reported that stock markets in Asia extended Wall Street's overnight rout on Friday, with investors spooked by the spectre of a global trade war after Trump said the United States would impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

It also reported that the Trump administration's intention to impose duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium would be formally announced next week, sparking concerns of retaliatory moves from major trade partners such as China, Europe and neighbouring Canada.

Japan's Nikkei declined 2.5% today, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.48%. South Korea's Kospi was also down by 1.04%.

On the local front, market breadth on Bursa Malaysia was negative today, with 656 losers versus 291 gainers, while 411 counters remained unchanged. Total trading volume in the open market was 2.55 billion, worth RM2.41 billion.

Among the notable gainers were Kobay Technology Bhd, IHH Healthcare Bhd and KPS Consortium Bhd. The biggest losers include Hengyuan Refining Co Bhd, Press Metal Aluminium Holdings Bhd and AirAsia Bhd.

HB Global Ltd was the most actively traded counter today, with 175.72 million shares done.

At the currency market, the ringgit strengthened against US dollar to 3.9078 at press time, and 2.9578 to the Singapore dollar.