KUALA LUMPUR (April 1): Malaysian stocks kicked off the second quarter of 2016 in the red today, as investors await the release of US nonfarm payrolls data for any clues on where the US monetary policy is heading.
At the closing bell, the FBM KLCI declined 7.03 points, or 0.4%, to settle at 1,710.55. Trading volume decreased to 1.49 billion shares worth RM1.73 billion compared to Thursday's 1.8 billion shares worth RM2.54 billion.
A bank-backed analyst told theedgemarkets.com the market's fall today is in line with regional peers and lower opening numbers from European markets.
"Local players are eagerly awaiting the release of the US jobs data. If it is worse than expected, it would mean [the] probability of a US rate hike in the near term would increase," he said.
Market breadth was negative with 301 gainers against 488 losers, while 390 counters were unchanged.
The top gainers for the day were British American Tobacco (M) Bhd, Khind Holdings Bhd and Lay Hong Bhd, while the lagging movers were Nestle (M) Bhd, Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd and United Plantations Bhd.
Actively traded stocks included Gamuda Bhd's warrant Gamuda-WE and AirAsia X Bhd and its warrant AAX-WA.
The ringgit strengthened 0.23% to 3.8905 against the US dollar. Against the Singapore dollar, the ringgit gained 0.32% to close at 2.8856.
Regionally, Japan's Nikkei 225 ended the day down 594.51 points or 3.55%, while South Korea's KOSPI was down 22.28 points (1.12%) and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 277.78 points (1.34%).
Closer to home, Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 22.41 points or 0.79%, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index was down 2.19 points or 0.55%.
Reuters reported that gloomy Japanese manufacturing data on Friday ensured a downbeat start to the second quarter, driving stocks and oil lower and supporting safe-haven assets like gold and the Japanese yen.
"Still bruised from a turbulent first quarter, investors took their cue from the Japanese data rather than more encouraging figures from China's manufacturers, before the pivotal US payrolls report later in the day," read the Reuters report.