Plantation stocks lend support to KLCI as Covid-19 spurs relentless world market sell-off

Plantation stocks lend support to KLCI as Covid-19 spurs relentless world market sell-off
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KUALA LUMPUR (March 19): The FBM KLCI closed down 19.29 points or 1.56% at 1,219.72 today after cutting losses in the afternoon, as oil palm plantation shares rose after the Malaysian government allowed the industry to continue operating during the nation’s 14-day movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infection.  

Malaysia’s crude palm oil (CPO) is also seen as a beneficiary of a weaker ringgit, as it makes the commodity cheaper for global buyers as the Covid-19 outbreak led to a global market sell-off on expectation of slower economic growth.

"The Cabinet has given their consent to allow the Malaysian plantation industry to resume operations with immediate effect. This is a relief and did not come as a surprise to us. We had estimated that the stoppage of work could cost the industry around RM1.6bn.

"We continue to view the plantation industry as one of the few industries that will be the least affected by the two-week restricted movement order,” CGS-CIMB Securities Sdn Bhd analysts Ivy Ng Lee Fang and Nagulan Ravi wrote in a note today.

Across Bursa Malaysia, 4.17 billion shares worth RM2.87 billion, were traded.

There were 849 decliners versus 170 gainers.

Top gainers included oil palm related shares PPB Group Bhd and Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, as the ringgit weakened to 4.4085 against the US dollar today.

PPB’s share price closed up 30 sen or 1.91% at RM16, while Sime Darby Plantation added 18 sen or 4.42% to RM4.25.

The weaker ringgit could have also helped export-oriented rubber glove manufacturers’ shares rise today. Hartalega Holdings Bhd rose 18 sen or 2.93% to RM6.33 among Bursa top gainers.

Globally, Reuters reported stocks, bonds, gold and commodities fell, as the world struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak and as investors and businesses scramble for hard cash. 

It was reported U.S. stock futures were a hair’s breadth from hitting session down limits. EuroSTOXX 50 futures fell 4%, while FTSE futures fell 3%.

(story updated)