KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- Shares in Malaysia and Singapore rose Wednesday as fears of a global trade war eased further after U.S. President Donald Trump praised China's efforts on trade.
Malaysia's FBM KLCI index rose 0.5% to 1,869.89 and Singapore's Straits Times Index advanced 0.4% to 3,479.76.
Energy-related names were in focus in both the markets as Brent crude prices rose to the highest in more than three years. Malaysia's Sapura Energy jumped 20.6% and Bumi Armada added 3.6%. Sapura's announcement that the company, along with its partners, has taken a final investment decision to develop three fields also helped fuel the stock's gains.
In Singapore, rig builder Sembcorp Marine advanced 1.3% while rival Keppel Corp. added 0.3%.
Asian indexes continued their recovery as Trump applauded Beijing's efforts in reducing tariffs and China's central bank spelt out timelines for opening up certain sectors of the economy. Trump said on Twitter that he was thankful to President Xi Jinping for his "word on tariffs and automobile barriers," referring to the latter's pledge to lower tariffs and commitment of a more open economy.
"The market recognizes that the Chinese President could have gone on the defensive, but instead his focus on openness has helped ease the current tension," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Singapore. "Specifics including the timing of the proposed plans by President Xi would go a long way to alleviating the concerns."
A day after Xi's remarks, China's central bank said it will raise foreign ownership limits to 51% in securities, fund management, futures, and life insurance over the next few months and will allow foreign investors in trust, financial leasing, auto finance, and consumer finance by end of 2018, Reuters reported.
The Malaysian index's rise to its highest in three-and-a-half years comes a day after the date for the national elections were announced. Investors are betting that Prime Minister Najib Razak will retain power in a hotly-contested election that will be held on May 9, traders said. According to analysts, a win for Najib could ensure the nation's ongoing economic reform agenda and infrastructure development.
"The announcement of the election date has resulted in more certainty for foreign investors," said K.C. Goh, senior remisier at broker SJ Securities.
Foreign inflows jumped more than seven times to 400 million ringgit ($103.3 million) through Monday and Tuesday, compared with the same period last week.
Pay TV operator Astro Malaysia Holdings jumped 14.6%. UOB Kay Hian Securities raised the stock to "buy."
Press Metal Aluminum Holdings added 2.4%. The shares have rallied this week, buoyed by reduced trade war concerns and a jump in aluminum prices after the U.S. imposed sanctions on United Company Rusal, the world's biggest aluminum producer outside China.
In economic data, Malaysia's industrial production rose 3% in February, slightly beating Nikkei Market's poll of seven economists had forecast a 2.9% increase. Manufacturing sales rose 4.9% over the same period to 62.3 billion ringgit.
On the STI, Singapore Exchange climbed 1.1%. Earlier on Wednesday, the bourse operator said it will list new India equity derivative products in June 2018, adding to its existing India single stock futures offering.
ComfortDelGro closed 1% higher. Late Tuesday, the transport operator announced it will acquire the private bus chartering assets of AZ Bus for $10.2 million. The move will further strengthen its position as Singapore's largest private bus charter operator, it said.
--Alexander Winifred & Joannah Perez