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Nikkei Markets

Singapore shares fall as Apple weighs on tech stocks

Plantation plays power Malaysia's gain on brighter palm oil outlook

KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- Malaysia shares closed higher as plantation companies climbed Thursday, while Singapore stocks dropped amid broader decline in the technology sector following Apple's revenue warning.

The FBM KLCI ended 0.5% higher at 1675.83. Sime Darby Plantation is the biggest gainer in the Malaysian index after adding 3.5%. The Straits Times Index closed 0.9% lower at 3012.88 with 24 out of 30 components in the red. Electronics manufacturing services firm Venture Corp. lost 1.8%.

"This could also be a theme for the year ahead, broadly directionless with big swings," said Robert Carnell, head of Asia-Pacific research at ING.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index dropped 0.8%. Apple said it expects revenue for the December quarter to be at least $5 billion lower than earlier estimates. The company cited weaker-than-expected iPhone revenue, primarily from Greater China, as a reason for the shortfall.

Technology stocks in Malaysia and Singapore also declined sharply following Apple's revised guidance.

Hi-P International, a Singapore-based firm that makes plastic and metal parts for Apple, dropped 2.8. Semiconductor components manufacturer UMS Holdings shed 2.6% and Intel test handling machine supplier AEM Holdings lost 0.6%.

Semiconductor firms Globetronics Technology and Inari Amertron each lost 14% in Malaysia.

The decline comes at a time when investors are grappling with an economic slowdown in China amid ongoing trade war with the U.S. A private survey released on Wednesday showed China's manufacturing activity contracted last month for the first time since May 2017.

Markets will likely stay volatile, said Pheim Asset Management Chief Investment Officer Leong Hoe Kit. "Having said that, Malaysian market has been in a bearish mode for quite a while and smart investors are already identifying sectors that would, in the short term, benefit from the trade war."

In Malaysia, plantation firms rose after Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok said crude palm oil prices are expected to trade higher between 2700 ringgit ($651.55) per ton and 2800 ringgit per ton this year. Bursa Malaysia Plantation Index climbed 1.4%.

In corporate news, AirAsia X climbed more than 4% in Malaysia. Co-founder Tony Fernandes said AirAsia X is expected to enjoy 2019 as its "best ever year" after the airline cut routes, renegotiated leases, raised utilization and reduced costs.

GFM Services rose 1.2% in Malaysia. The company is aiming for 20% revenue growth in 2019, partly driven by a recent acquisition. Also, the facilities management service firm said it is in talks with existing clients to renew seven contracts and aims to raise the value of orders by at least 5%.

Meanwhile in Singapore, Soilbuild Construction Group ended flat after rising as much as 4.3% after the company said it secured a contract worth S$28.3 million from the Housing & Development Board for flat upgrading projects and contingency works.

- Jason Ng and Joannah Perez

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