KUALA LUMPUR: Sentiment continued to improve at the start of the new year as investors bet on a breakthrough in trade talks between the US and China.
On Wall Street, US stock index futures rose on hopes of a quick end to the government shutdown as US President Donald Trump held a briefing for both Republicans and Democrats on border security.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.14 percent, as E-Mini future for the S&P 500 firmed 0.5% and Nasdaq futures 0.7%. Japan's Nikkei was closed for a holiday
At 9.08am on the local stock exchange, the FBM KLCI picked up 0.42 points to 1,691. Trading volume was 169.29 million shares valued at RM28.37mil.
Kenanga research said in its pre-market open report that despite recent rallies, the technical outlook remains leaning towards a downside biase as the index remains trading below key simple moving averages, which are also in a "death cross" state.
"If the benchmark index manages to swiftly take out the 1,700 (R1) level, upside potential could reach 1,750 (R2) next.
"Conversely, downside supports can be found at 1,615 (S1) and 1,600 (S2) further down. Momentum for the index has been improving over recent days," it said.
Top early gainers on the KLCI included Hong Leong Bank rising 36 sen to RM20.76, Top Glove gaining seven sen to RM5.67 and Public Bank adding six sen to RM24.82.
Decliners were Digi shedding eight sen to RM4.42, MAHB slipping eight sen to RM8.30 and Sime Darby Plantation dropping five sen to RM4.71.
Top active counters in early trade included Tatt Giap gaining 1.5 sen to 24.5 sen, PUC rising one sen to 12.5 sen and Prestaring adding 0.5 sen to 46 sen.
Oil markets began 2019 in positive territory on Wednesday, although the general outlook for the year is weak amid soaring U.S. crude supply and concerns of an economic slowdown.
US crude rose 53 cents to US$45.94 a barrel while Brent crude gained 53 cents to US$54.33 a barrel.