Asian bourses up as war fears subside


EQUITY markets in Asia staged a rebound yesterday with investors' fears of an imminent US-led war against Iraq alleviated by developments over the weekend. 

A higher closing on Wall Street last Friday, partly buoyed by impressive earnings numbers by Dell Computer, also helped boost sentiment in the region. 

In contrast, gold and crude oil prices, which had been inflated by war premium, came down substantially yesterday. 

In early London trading, Brent Crude fell 45 cents to US$32.05 per barrel, and Malaysia's benchmark Tapis Crude 80 cents to US$35 per barrel. Gold slid to a seven-week low of US$346.55 per ounce. 

Taipei and Seoul were the star performers yesterday. The Taiwan Weighted Composite Index surged 211 points or 4.7% to 4,705, while the Kospi Index soared 26.6 points or 4.6% to 602, lifted by buying by national pension funds. 

Singapore's Straits Times Index gained 27.7 points or 2.2% to 1,301, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index 182 points or 2% to 9,384. 

On the local front, the KLSE Composite Index (CI) inched up 2.4 points to 659. However, trading volume was higher at 236 million shares, compared with 166.5 million last Friday. 

The KL market did not perform as well as the regional bourses because share prices in other Asian markets had previously tumbled quite significantly as a result of war fears. Dealers noted that the focus of the local market yesterday was on lower liners.  

“The market is on situational play. The higher volume is an encouraging sign that interest in the stock market has returned,'' said OSK Research senior research manager Pankaj Kumar. 

Companies of the Renong group were actively traded yesterday. 

Renong Bhd, which is expected to unveil its long-waited restructuring plan, was the most active counter with 17.6 million shares changing hands, followed by Intria with 13.2 million shares traded.  

The conglomerate rose 5 sen to 51 sen, while Intria gained 7.5 sen to 84.5 sen.  

Time Engineering Bhd, parent of TIME Dotcom Bhd, performed well yesterday, its share price jumping nearly 15% or 11.5 sen to 88.5 sen. This stock is likely to feature prominently in Renong's massive restructuring scheme, said analysts. 

Blue chips such as Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Genting Bhd and Sime Darby Bhd were flat. However, Malayan Banking Bhd was down 10 sen to RM7.85, and Tenaga Nasional Bhd 5 sen to RM9.40. 

Pankaj commented that in the near term, share prices would still be driven by geopolitical developments in Iraq, and by corporate earnings announcements in the coming two weeks.  

For the latest KLSE indices and other information click here


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