KLCI slips amid low turnover, ringgit firms on oil prices

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI was slightly lower in morning trade amid headwinds in the external enivronment and despite Bank Negara's better-than-expected 1Q GDP announcement.

On the domestic front, the central bank announced GDP growth of 4.5% in the first quarter of the year, as compared to 4.7% in the previous quarter and 5.3% in 1Q2018. However, the result beat a consensus forecast of 4.3%.

However, US policy continued to rock markets as US President Donald Trump imposed severe sanctions on China's Huawei, which threatened to escalate tensions between the two nations. This offset the positivity of an earlier announcement that the US would delay tariffs on auto imports.

At 12.30pm, the local index was 2.41 points lower at 1,609.02. Turnover was weak at RM1.13 billion shares valued at RM733.15bil. There were 226 gainers versus 402 decliners and 226 counters unchanged.

Among the heavyweights, Tenaga Nasional dropped six sen to RM11.72, Hong Leong Bank fell 10 sen to RM19.30 and Sime Darby Plantation lost two sen to RM4.67.
KL Kepong shed 28 sen to RM24.12 on disappointing earnings announced yesterday.

PublicInvest cut its earnings forecast for the group and lowered its target price to RM22.20 from RM22.86 previously.

"Management sees weaker earnings for its plantation arm, dragged by the continuous poor CPO price performance," the research house said in a note. "Meanwhile, oleochemical segment is expected to see solid earnings in view of steady capacity utilization despite seeing volatile margins."

On the stock exchange, counters seeing the most investor attention were LHI rising two sen to RM1.12, VC gaining one sen to 28.5 sen and Lambo dropping 0.5 sen to seven sen.

Elsewhere in the region, equities were stable with the Shanghai Composite Index gaining 0.3%, the blue chip CSI 300 Index rising 0.2% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index adding 0.2%. 

Japan's Nikkei index however fell 0.7% while South Korea's Kospi Index dropped 0.8%.

Oil prices rose for a third session as Middle East tensions were seen to worsen with the US Embassy in Baghdad being evacuated. US crude rose 39 cents to US$62.41 a barrel and Brent crude gained 45 cents to US$72.72 a barrel.

The GDP announcement coupled with a rise in oil prices gave the ringgit a lift. The currency rose 0.4% against the US dollar to 4.1570. It also rose 0.9% against the pound sterling to 5.3423 and 0.5% against the singapore dollar to 3.0377.
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