KUALA LUMPUR (NewsRise) -- Malaysian shares reversed course towards close to end lower Thursday, as profit booking in banking stocks and mobile operators eroded early gains stemming from steadying energy prices and upbeat U.S. jobs data.
The nation's benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI fell 0.17% to 1,688.20 points. The index had risen 0.71% earlier today, tracking its regional peers. The KLCI has nearly recovered from a loss of as much as 5.5% in 2016.
Lenders CIMB Group Holdings and AMMB Holdings and mobile operators Maxis and DiGi.Com led losses, while RHB Capital, SapuraKencana Petroleum, Petronas Chemical Group and Kuala Lumpur Kepong gained.
"In the short term, we reiterate that KLCI is still trapped in a consolidation unless it stages a decisive rebound above the 1,700 levels. Near term supports are at 1,664 and 1,650 points," said Nick Foo of Hong Leong Investment Bank.
The ringgit rose 0.72% to 4.13, ending higher against the dollar for a fifth consecutive session Thursday. The currency, up 1.83% this week, is on course for its first weekly advance in five weeks. For 2016, the currency has risen 3.7%.
Better-than-expected U.S. private payrolls data for February further cemented views about the underlying strength of the world's largest economy, lifting risk appetite further after Tuesday's upbeat factory activity and construction spending numbers.
Brent crude oil prices were little changed Thursday, but have gained 5% this week so far. China's move to ease monetary policy earlier this week and a rally in global stocks have helped steady oil and commodity prices. Copper prices have risen to near three-month highs, while Zinc and Aluminum prices have advanced to their highest levels since October.
Among Southeast markets, Philippine's PSE Composite index and Singapore's Straits Times rose 1.18% and 1.81%. Indonesia's Jakarta Stock Exchange Composite and Thailand's SET index gained 0.16% and 0.64%,
In other Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 and China's Shanghai Composite rose 1.28% and 0.36%, while South Korea's KOSPI advanced 0.61%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.31%.
On the KLCI, 15 of the 30 constituents in the index ended lower, while four ended unchanged. Overall declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 415 to 411.
Foreign investors bought a massive 350 million ($84.5 million) in Malaysia shares Wednesday, according to BIMB Securities. Yesterday's inflows trimmed foreign outflows for 2016 to only 127.5 million ringgit. Foreign outflows had exceeded 2 billion ringgit earlier this year.
Malaysia's second largest bank by assets CIMB Group Holdings led losses on the KLCI, slipping 3.23% to 4.5 ringgit. The lender has gained 9% over the last four sessions. AMMB Holdings fell 2.21% to 4.42 ringgit, giving up part of a 4% gain over the last two days.
Mobile operators Maxis and DiGi.Com fell 2.49% to 6.26 ringgit and 0.39% to 5.06 ringgit. Both companies' shares had advanced about 3% Wednesday.
Resort-to-rail conglomerate YTL Corporation fell 1.27% to 1.56 ringgit, giving up a chunk of yesterday's 2% gains.
RHB Capital was the best performing stock on the index Thursday, advancing 1.83% to 5.56 ringgit. Malaysia's fourth largest bank by assets, which had fallen by over 13% earlier in the year, is among the best performing stocks this week with a 4% advance.
Public Bank, the highest weighted banking stock on the KLCI, rose for the sixth consecutive session, advancing 0.11% to 18.66 ringgit.
SapuraKencana Petroleum rose 1.46% to 2.08 ringgit. Malaysia's biggest oil and gas services company is now up about 3% in 2016 as crude prices have rebounded.
Plantation major Kuala Lumpur Kepong and agriculture conglomerate PPB Group were among the other notable gainers Thursday, advancing 0.5% to 24 ringgit and 0.87% to 16.32 ringgit.
AirAsia rose 3.07% to 1.68 ringgit, taking its advance in the last four sessions to almost 21% on better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings.