KLCI tracks US share, crude oil rise

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KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 19): The FBM KLCI rose, tracking overnight US share and world crude oil gains after US policy makers indicated interest rate hikes will be gradual.

At 9:04am, the KLCI climbed 5.34 points or 0.3% to 1,802.91 on gains in stocks like SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd and Public Bank Bhd.

Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd analyst Nick Foo Mun Pang said the KLCI's improving technical outlook and the US' monetary stance augured well for Malaysian shares.

Foo, however, said "investors are likely to refrain from making big bets" on concerns including still-low crude oil prices and a weaker ringgit besides less-optimistic Malaysian corporate financials.

Bursa Malaysia saw some 136 million shares worth RM40 million changed hands. There were 173 gainers versus 52 decliners.

The top gainer was British American Tobacco (M) Bhd while the leading decliner was Petronas Gas Bhd. The most-active stock was The Media Shoppe Bhd.

The ringgit strengthened after US crude oil prices rose in overnight trade due to a weaker US dollar. The ringgit strengthened against the US dollar at 3.6645 and compared to the Singapore dollar, the ringgit was firmer at 2.6633.

The ringgit's strength hinges on prices of crude oil, which constitutes a major portion of the Malaysian economy.

Reuters reported that oil prices jumped as much as 6% on Wednesday as the dollar fell after the Federal Reserve indicated it preferred a more gradual path to normalising US interest rates despite being open to the first rate hike in almost a decade.

Brent closed up US$2.40 or 4.5% at US$55.91 a barrel. In post-settlement, it extended its gain to above US$3, or 6%, reaching US$56.84. US crude finished up US$1.20, or almost 3% at US$44.66 a barrel and above US$45 post-settlement.

Across Asian share markets, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.3% while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.45%.

Bloomberg reported that Japan shares fell as a stronger yen countered optimism that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates more slowly than previously forecast.

A firmer yen does not augur well for Japanese exporters, hence, the broader market decline.