KUALA LUMPUR: Iran launched retaliatory missile strikes against US forces in Iraq, sending key Asian markets deeper into the red on Wednesday as investors worried about a wider conflict.
At 5pm, the KLCI was down 21.94 points or 1.36% to 1,589.10. Turnover was 3.86 billion shares valued at RM2.22bil. Decliners beat advancers more than five to one or 883 losers to 171 gainers and 284 counters unchanged.
China shares fell the most in two weeks, reversing some of the sharp gains recorded in the past fortnight, after Iran's firing of missiles at US-led forces in Iraq stoked fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East, Reuters reported.
The Shanghai Composite Index and blue-chip stocks both shed more than 1%, marking their largest daily losses since Dec 23,2019. Earlier in the session, the Shanghai benchmark touched its lowest in more than a week. Hong Kong stocks closed 0.8% weaker, having touched its lowest level since Dec 24 mid-trade.
Japan's Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.57%, South Korea's Kospi 1.11% and Singapore's STI 0.06%.
Gold surged more than 2% to break the US$1,600 level for the first time in nearly seven years as investors flocked to safe havens. At 5.45pm, it was up US$10.61 to US$1,584.99 per troy ounce.
However, jewelry stocks Poh Kong and Tomei rallied in active trade as investors snapped up the stocks as proxy to higher gold prices. Poh Kong surged 16.5 sen to 70.5 sen to 25.29 million shares done and Tomei surged 12.5 sen to 59.5 sen with 8.26 million units done.
Consumer stocks were among the top losers, but in relatively thin trade. Nestle fell RM1.30 to RM146.20, Dutch Lady RM1 to RM48, F&N 70 sen to RM33.70 and Heineken 36 sen to RM26.92.
Allianz fell 54 sen to RM15.80 after analysts downgraded the insurer after the recent rally in its share price.
Oil prices were up but well below peaks hit in frenzied early trading.
Brent crude futures were up 45 cents, or 0.66%, to US$68.72, after earlier rising to their highest level since mid-September 2019 at $71.75.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 25 cents, or 0.4%, to US$62.95 a barrel. It earlier hit US$65.85, the highest since late April last year.
Petronas Chemicals fell 10 sen to RM7.47, Petronas Dagangan added two sen to RM23.10 while Petronas Gas was unchanged at RM16.96. Dialog lost five sen to RM3.47.
Crude palm oil for third month delivery fell RM5 to RM3,037 per tonne.
As for plantations, PPB Group lost 52 sen to RM18.76, KL Kepong 44 sen to RM24.50, IOI Corp and Sime Darby Plantation lost five sen each to RM4.67 and RM5.43 sen.
FGV lost four sen to RM1.47. Its chairman Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid said in a letter to shareholders: “I believe the worst is behind us and that FGV is definitely on the right path towards a new and far better future. There are still a couple of lingering challenges with our subsidiary, MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd, but there are plans underway to address each and every one of them, sooner rather than later.”
Among the banks, Public Bank lost 52 sen to RM19.60 and erased 3.09 points from the KLCI, Maybank fell 11 sen to RM8.54 and wiped out 1.89 points, CIMB 12 sen to RM5.17, Hong Leong Bank 10 sen to RM17.56, RHB Bank nine sen to RM5.84 and AmBank three sen to RM3.80.
As for telcos, Axiata fell 15 sen to RM4.21 and wiped out 2.10 points, Digi eight sen to RM4.45 but Maxis gained five sen to RM5.50.
Tenaga lost eight sen to RM12.98, IHH five sen to RM5.55, Sime Darby three sen to RM2.23, GentingM five sen to RM3.24 and Genting two sen to RM6.
MAHB was 14 sen lower at RM7.12 after the recent abrupt depature of its group CEO. However, it was off its low of RM7.02.
On the currency front, the ringgit weakened 0.24% versus the US dollar to 4.1020, slipped 0.09% against the pound sterling to 5.4018 and lost 0.08% to the Singapore dollar at 3.0384. However, it rose 0.19% to the euro at 4.5680.
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