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Nikkei Markets

Singapore stocks gain, helped by real estate firms after private home prices jump

Banks drag Malaysian equities lower

KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- Singapore stocks edged higher on Monday, as a jump in private home prices buoyed real estate companies. Malaysia shares ended lower, led by banks.

Singapore's Straits Times Index advanced 0.1% to 3,430.76. City Developments and Capitaland climbed at least 1.4% each and UOL Group added 1.1% after data showed that private home prices rose at the fastest pace in eight years. According to a flash estimate from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, private home prices rose by 3.1% quarter-on-quarter in the January-March period, the biggest jump since the June quarter in 2010.

The advance in real estate developers helped overcome news that wasn't all that positive for risk assets. Earlier Monday, China announced that it is implementing tariffs on 128 types of U.S. imports in response to Washington's recent move to pursue trade restrictions on Beijing. The threat of strained U.S.-China trade relations has hurt global growth expectations in recent weeks, and indications are that there could more friction between the world's two largest economies.

Meanwhile, China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), released over the weekend, rose to 51.5 in March from 50.3 in the previous month. On the other hand, the Caixin PMI, which focuses more on small and mid-sized corporates, declined to a four-month low of 51 as compared with 51.7 in February.

"Mixed results of official and Caixin manufacturing PMIs clouded the outlook a little and weighed slightly on the STI index, alongside concerns over the trade friction between the U.S. and China," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Asia.

Out of the 30 companies on the STI, 17 closed higher and 5 ended unchanged. DBS Group Holdings paced losses among banks, falling 0.7%. Outside of the property companies, mobile operator StarHub was the day's top performer, closing 1.3% higher.

Malaysia's FBM KLCI index fell 0.3% to 1,858.35. Malayan Banking, the nation's largest lender by assets, lost 0.8%, while rival Public Bank fell 0.4%. Hong Leong Bank dropped 0.5% and its parent Hong Leong Financial Group declined 2.5%.

The losses came after data released by Bank Negara Malaysia on Friday showed loan applications dropped 22.9% month-on-month and 5.8% on-year in February. Loan growth was at 4.5% during the month.

"Fizzling" momentum in the residential mortgage segment and a double-digit contraction in the working capital loan segment could stem loan growth for the next two to three months, CIMB Investment Bank analyst Winson Ng said.

Malaysia Airports Holdings rose 0.8% after Nomura Securities said the company "stands a chance of winning" a contract to operate and maintain the Clark International Airport in the Philippines. The operator could partner either JG Summit Holdings, Filinvest Development, or San Miguel to bid for the contract worth around 15 billion pesos ($288 million), analyst Ahmad Maghfur Usman said.

Shares of Comintel Corp. plunged 12% after the technology company said it had erroneously filed financial information with the Bursa Malaysia that showed a net profit in the fourth quarter when it had actually incurred a loss.

Gaming-to-automotive company Berjaya Corp. dropped 1.6% after swinging to a net loss in the third quarter.

Lion Industries, a steel maker, jumped 12% after RHB Investment Bank said the company's prospects are expected to improve on higher demand from infrastructure projects. Rivals Ann Joo Resources and Southern Steel advanced 4.7% and 8.2%, respectively.

--Alexander Winifred & Joannah Perez

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