Market in pre-Chinese New Year mood, boost from foreign buying

KUALA LUMPUR: Investor sentiment perked up towards the close on Tuesday, with funds leading the buying interest of blue chips including Axiata, IHH and plantation stocks and setting the stage for a late pre-Chinese New Year rally.

At 5pm, the KLCI was up 9.38 points or 0.56% to 1,680.69. Turnover was 1.55 billion shares valued at RM2.02bil, reflecting the interest in higher value stocks.

The broader market firmed up as advancers beat decliners 416 to 353 while 353 counters were unchanged.

Stock market data showed foreign funds were net buyers at RM43.74mil while local institutions emerged with net buying at RM3.59mil. However, local retailers decided to take profit, with net selling at RM47.33mil.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported the US dollar wallowed near its lowest levels since early December on Tuesday, kept under pressure by concerns that 
US President Donald Trump was focusing more on protectionism and less on pro-growth economic policies.

While the ringgit closed higher against the US dollar, in line with the performance of Asian currencies, it weakened against the key currencies.

At 6pm, the ringgit was traded at 4.4330/4370 against the greenback from Monday's close of 4.4360/4400, according to Bernama.

The ringgit fell against the Singapore dollar to 3.1240/1273 from 3.1224/1259 on Monday and eased against the yen to 3.9143/9182 from 3.9039/9078.

The ringgit fell against the British pound to 5.5302/5369 from 5.5219/5287 and declined against the euro to 4.7606/7653 from 4.7572/7632.

Hong Kong stocks rose on Tuesday, led by a solid resources sector as a weaker US currency stemming from Trump's protectionist stance reduces costs to firms for raw materials imports. The benchmark Hang Seng index added 0.2%, to 22,949.86, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index  gained 0.3%, to 9,759.26.

At Bursa, BAT was the top gainer, up RM1.96 to RM46.38 while PPB Group gained 24 sen to RM16.34 and IHH Healthcare was up 11 sen to RM6.42.

Axiata climbed 12 sen to RM4.84. BNP Paribas recently upgraded Axiata to a Buy with a target price of RM5.59 while Credit Suisse maintained its Neutral with a target price of RM5.

KESM jumped 22 sen to RM10.26 as analysts expected a strong pick-up in the technology sector. 

CIMB was among the most active stocks, adding four sen to RM4.92.

AirAsia added five sen to RM2.49 after it refuted reports linking it to a Rolls-Royce plc bribery case. The low-cost carrier said it has had no dealings or transactions with the United Kingdom engine maker.

AirAsia X was up one sen to 39 sen after it received clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to fly to any destination in the the US, making its foray into an entirely new market as it looks beyond the Asia Pacific.

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