KLCI falls on dour manufacturing sentiment, US-China Covid-19 spat

KLCI falls on dour manufacturing sentiment, US-China Covid-19 spat
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KUALA LUMPUR (May 4): The FBM KLCI closed 31.19 points or 2.22% lower at 1,376.59 today as investors weighed the prospect of renewed US-China trade tension amid a spat over the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Malaysia, the IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index's (PMI) latest reading, which showed a deterioration in the local industry, also affected market sentiment, according to analysts.

Across Bursa Malaysia at 5pm, a total of 5.47 billion shares worth RM2.48 billion had been traded. There were 597 decliners versus 284 gainers.

Top decliners included KLCI stocks Public Bank Bhd and Petronas Dagangan Bhd.

“Despite the news of the easing of the movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia, market sentiment was affected by the sluggish IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing PMI.

"The weakness also stemmed from renewed trade tension between the US and China after US President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs on Chinese goods after accusing the latter that the Covid-19 pandemic was brought from a laboratory in Wuhan,” Malacca Securities Sdn Bhd senior analyst Kenneth Leong told theedgemarkets.com.

Earlier today, IHS Markit said in a statement the headline IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing PMI was at 31.3 in April, down from 48.4 in March. 

"According to the latest PMI survey, the Malaysian manufacturing sector came under heavy pressure during April as measures implemented to tackle the spread of Covid-19 caused firms to either suspend production or operate well below full capacity. Lockdown measures both domestically and overseas had a considerable impact on demand, which fell at a survey-record pace. Supplier deliveries were also heavily affected by the MCO, restricting firms' ability to purchase vital materials,” IHS Markit said.

Globally, the US-China spat over the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic did not help markets. It was reported that Wall Street sold off sharply last Friday after Trump revived a threat of new tariffs against China in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had brought global economies to a grinding halt.

Trump reportedly said his administration was crafting retaliatory measures against China as punishment for the Covid-19 outbreak, once again sparking tariff fears that rattled markets through much of the last two years. It was reported that Trump had blamed China for what he said was "misinformation" when the virus emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan and then quickly spread around the world.

"European stock markets and oil prices fell today as a spat between top US officials and China over the origin of Covid-19 fuelled fears of a new trade war, derailing a rebound in global markets.

"US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was 'a significant amount of evidence' that the virus emerged from a laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. 

"Pompeo did not provide evidence or dispute an earlier US intelligence conclusion that the virus was not man-made.  An editorial in China’s Global Times said he was 'bluffing' and called on the US to present its evidence,” Reuters reported.