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KLCI TUMBLES TO ITS LOWEST IN 3 YEARS TO 959.62

by Chong Jin Hun
fd@bizedge.com

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian stocks were further sold-down till lunchbreak today, pushing the key stockmarket gauge down below the 1,000-point mark for the first time in about three years. The local bourse fell in tandem with most Asian bourses in anticipation of more bad news from Wall Street's financial sector woes.

At 12.30pm, the 100-company Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) tumbled 37.53 points or 3.74% to 965.46, an almost three-year low. The last time the KLCI hovered around this level was on Sept 20, 2006, when the equity benchmark hit 959.62 points.

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At midday today, the KLCI was pulled down, mainly, by losses in banking and plantation shares. These include Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd which dipped 55 sen to RM6.85, and Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) whose shares dropped 30 sen to RM6.60. Public Bank Bhd shed 35 sen to RM9.45.

Plantation stocks including IOI Corp Bhd was down 18 sen to RM3.78 while Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd lost 85 sen to RM8.65. Market breadth was negative across Bursa Malaysia as gainers significantly outnumbered decliners.

A total of 631 counters were down at midday versus 32 gainers. Some 241.83 million shares valued at 527.04 million changed hands.

Analysts said news on the US government taking up a 79.9% stake in ailing insurer American International Group after lending up to US$85 billion (RM294.95 billion) to the firm failed to bolster sentiments as the market remained skeptical and believed that there would be more bad in the near-term.

"Broader political risks remain for Malaysia's equity market over the next 6 months. Until an overwhelmingly strong political consensus emerges, there may be no equilibrium to the current political situation, and a political changeover is far from being an economic panacea," HLG Securities wrote in a note today.

Nineteen out of 20 Asian indices fell. The biggest decliner was Hong Kong's Hang Seng which dropped 1301.05 points, or 7.38%, to 16,336.14 points, followed by the Shenzen Composite which shed 33.02 points, or 5.9%, to 526.93 points. Nearer to home, Singapore's Straits Times was down 107.39 points, or 4.44%, to 2.311.9 points.

The ringgit against fell against most major currencies at midday. The ringgit weakened to RM3.461 against the US dollar, RM4.9688 against the Euro, RM3.3132 against the yen, RM0.1012 against the Thai Baht, and RM0.3675 against the Indonesian rupiah. The ringgit, however, strengthened to RM2.4146 against the Singapore dollar.

US stock indices fell a night earlier on concerns over Wall Street's financial woes. This follows investment bank Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing, the largest in the nation's corporate history, besides the government's move to prevent the collapse of AIG.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 449.36 points, or 4.06%, to 10,609.66 points, Nasdaq shed 109.05 points, or 4.94%, to 2,098.85 points while the S&P 500 was down 57.21 or 4.71% to 1,156.39 points.

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