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Malaysia stocks gain as BNM keeps rates unchanged, Singapore equities down

British American Tobacco Malaysia, CIMB help KLCI climb 0.6%

SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Malaysia shares rose Thursday after the nation's central bank kept interest rates unchanged and Wall Street equities posted gains overnight. Singapore stocks edged lower.

Bank Negara Malaysia's monetary policy committee held the Overnight Policy Rate at 3% as expected at the fifth of its six scheduled meetings this year, the central bank said in a statement. BNM has kept interest rates unchanged since July 2016 when it unexpectedly cut the rate by 25 basis points.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI climbed 0.6% to 1,782.98. British American Tobacco Malaysia was the day's top performer with a 3.4% gain.

CIMB Group Holdings advanced 2.4%. The lender signed an agreement with Olympia Industries and remaining stakeholders to buy Jupiter Securities for 55 million ringgit ($13 million). The shares of Olympia Industries jumped 10%.

Econpile Holdings, a piling and foundation specialist, advanced 2.7% after proposing a two-for-one share split with free warrants to improve stock liquidity.

Bintai Kinden Corp. added 2.9%. The engineering services and construction company's chief executive said Thursday that it is in talks with three colleges for new construction and operations concessions. The company aims to quadruple new contracts by bidding for more factory buildings instead of its traditional office and residential development.

Positive global cues helped advances in Malaysian equities. U.S. stocks rose overnight after President Donald Trump struck a deal with Democrats to increase the federal government's borrowing limit by three months. While the issue will once again come to fore in December, the extension lent a bit of cheer to Asian markets, which have struggled this week because of concerns over North Korea.

"It's a short-term fix that buys a short amount of time, but will result in increased pressure on the government as the new deadline of December 15 looms," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said in an e-mail. "However, investors responded to the reduction in short-term uncertainty."

Singapore's FTSE Straits Times Index ended down 0.1% to 3,228.06.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings and Jardine Cycle & Carriage were among the major losers, down at least 1.9% each. Singapore Press Holdings was the day's best performer, up 1.5%.

Keppel Corp. slipped 0.3%. The rig builder said Thursday its unit Keppel Offshore & Marine has entered into an agreement with Pavilion Energy and Indonesia's state-owned PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara to explore opportunities of small-scale Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) distribution in West Indonesia.

Share buybacks by Singapore-listed companies hit an 11-month high in August as stock prices eased and the blackout period ended for those that had reported quarterly earnings in July and early August, the latest data from the Singapore Exchange showed Thursday.

SGX said 29 companies purchased more than 32 million shares worth S$59.7 million ($44.2 million) last month, more than double July's total of S$26.7 million.

--Nimesh Vora and Kevin Lim

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