KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 26): The FBM KLCI erased losses to settle almost flat amid a strengthening ringgit, and Asian share gains. The ringgit and regional equities had taken the cue from firmer crude oil prices and anticipation that US interest rates will rise later than expected.
At 12:30pm, the KLCI gained 0.54 point or 0.03% to settle at 1,816.40. The KLCI had earlier dipped to an intraday low of 1,812.90.
For comparison, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.79% while Japan' Nikkei 225 rose 0.26%.
The ringgit appreciated to 3.5520 against the US dollar. Compared to the Singapore dollar, the ringgit strengthened to 2.6569.
Reuters reported that Asian share prices held near five-month highs on Thursday after upbeat U.S. housing and Chinese factory data, while the dollar nursed modest losses following Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments.
Brent crude oil futures surged 5% on Wednesday, after Saudi Arabia's oil minister said oil demand was growing and data showed Chinese factories were producing more than expected.
Today, prices of the commodity fell. Reuters reported that Brent crude had declined 17 cents to US$61.46 a barrel by 0212 GMT. U.S. crude was down 31 cents at US$50.68.
Analysts said oil price was a crucial factor dicating broader market sentiment.
“While sentiment should be buoyed by the stronger-than-expected Chinese PMI data, dovish US Federal Reserve's stance on interest rates and reduced Greece debt concerns, the weak oil prices hampered by large US oil supplies could cloud market tone,” said TA Securities Holdings Bhd.
Bursa Malaysia saw 344 gainers against a similar number of decliners. Volume was 1.03 billion shares valued at RM795.35 million.
The top gainers included Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd, MISC Bhd and Integrax Bhd. Top decliners included Petronas Gas Bhd and Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd.
Wintoni Group Bhd was the most-actively traded stock.
Integrax, the eighth-largest gainer, was closely watched after Tenaga Nasional Bhd upped its take-over offer price for the port operator to RM3.25 a share. This compares to RM2.75 previously.
At 12:30pm, Integrax rose 21 sen or 7% to settle at RM3.23 with some five million shares done. The stock had earlier reached an intraday high of RM3.24.