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Asia300

Singapore edges higher on Wall Street cues, Malaysia slips

SINGAPORE (NewsRise) -- Shares in Singapore rose on Thursday after Wall Street showed signs of steadying even though uncertainty about President Donald Trump's economic agenda persisted. Malaysian equities ended slightly lower.

Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.3% to 3,126.93. Data released by the Department of Statistics on Thursday showed the city-state's consumer price index rose 0.7% in February from a year ago, quickening from January and December.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI fell less than 0.1% to 1,747 after rising as much as 0.3% earlier. Malaysia's economic growth will likely pick up pace this year mainly driven by domestic demand, Bank Negara Malaysia said Thursday. Southeast Asia's third-largest Southeast Asian economy is projected to expand between 4.3% and 4.8% this year from last year's 4.2%.

"KLCI's uptrend is intact, despite some profit-taking activities over the last two days," said Lew Chee Hao, an analyst with RHB Investment Bank. "It's still a good time to accumulate undervalued stocks."

Global sentiment improved after the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite rose for the first time in five sessions Wednesday, even as concerns about Trump's ability to push big reforms remained under the spotlight ahead of a vote on a healthcare bill. Market reaction to suspected terror attack in London which killed five people and injured about 40 was muted.

"Despite some mild bargain hunting activities on Wall Street, we expect the technical rebound would be short-lived," Hong Leong Investment Bank said in a note.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index was little changed at 1,171.39.

In Malaysia on Thursday, plantation majors Hap Seng Consolidated and IOI Corp fell at least 1.7% each, while conglomerate Sime Darby rose 2.6%.

DRB-Hicom slumped 2.9%, adding to Wednesday's 2.1% slide after Geely Automobile Holdings reportedly pulled out of a bid to buy its car-making unit, Proton.

Malaysia's largest lender Malayan Banking rose 0.7% to 9 ringgit. The stock is up 9.8% so far this year.

"We continue to see share price catalysts for Maybank, underpinned mainly by favorable outlook and fading headwinds," Hong Leong Investment Bank said in a note. "Maybank endured a hard time in FY15 and FY16 due to higher credit cost. We now deem that this headwind is now under control, as management already priced-in the lingering concerns."

Malaysia Airports Holdings slipped 1.1% Thursday. The stock had risen for a fourth day Wednesday after Cainiao Network, the logistics arm of electronic-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said it will partner with the government to develop a regional electronic commerce and logistics hub in Malaysia.

Eco World International, the overseas arm of Malaysian real estate developer Eco World Development Group, has raised 2.58 billion ringgit ($580.18 million) in the country's biggest initial public offering in nearly two years. The IPO was priced at 1.20 ringgit a share for both institutional and retail investors, Eco World International said in a statement.

Singapore's United Overseas Bank rose 0.4%. The lender received a nod from the State Bank of Vietnam to set up a 100% foreign-owned subsidiary bank in Vietnam. The central bank said it will issue the city-state's third-largest listed lender an in-principle approval for an FOSB license by June 2017.

Real estate investment trusts in the city-state edged higher despite a bearish report on the sector from OCBC Securities. The stockbroking arm of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp on Thursday downgraded the REIT sector to neutral from overweight, saying valuations were no longer compelling.

"Operationally, the leasing environment remains challenging across the sub-sectors.... (and) we believe the likelihood of a faster-than-expected pace of rate increase remains a possibility at this juncture," OCBC said in its report.

Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust rose 0.4% Thursday, while Capitaland Mall Trust added 0.3%.

--Kevin Lim and Jason Ng

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