Malaysia welcomes MAFTA review but priority given to RCEP conclusion

CANBERRA, Aug 20 – Malaysia welcomes the review of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) but any effort to do so will only be considered after the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have been…

Ringgit ends lower

KUALA LUMPUR: The ringgit ended lower against the US dollar today as the greenback climbed to its highest this year, backed by optimism over possible stimulus to counter the global economic slowdown.

At 6pm, the ringgit finished at 4.1810/1860 against the greenback from 4.1750/1790 on Monday.

VM Markets Pte Ltd managing partner Stephen Innes said the dollar remains supported by US growth differentials.

“The strong US economic data versus the weaker data in Europe and China makes the greenback more attractive,“ he told Bernama.

There are also a lot of nervous investors ahead of US-China trade talks scheduled for next month.

“I think until there is a definitive or positive sign from those talks only then will the ringgit significantly strengthen,“ he added.

The ringgit was traded mixed against other major currencies.

The local note was better against the British pound at 5.0569/0646 from 5.0593/0645 on Monday and versus the euro to 4.6334/6393 from 4.6338/6399.

It was weakened against the yen at 3.9321/9372 from 3.9183/9228 and against the Singapore dollar to 3.0164/0204 from 3.0144/0184. — Bernama

MoF: Increase in Fitch GDP growth projection due to steady rise in FDI

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — International Fitch Rating Agency has revised its 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for Malaysia from 4.2 per cent to 4.6 per cent due to the steady rise in total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the…

Robust baht, travel trends rattle Thai tourism market

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Sources: China CNPC suspends Venezuelan oil loading, worried about US sanctions

SINGAPORE, Aug 20 ― China National Petroleum Corp, a leading buyer of Venezuelan oil, has halted August loadings following the latest US sanctions on the South American exporter, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters…

Asian markets mostly rise on optimism for trade, stimulus

HONG KONG: Most Asian markets rose Tuesday on the back of hopes for central bank and government stimulus measures around the world, while investors were also cheered by further signs of easing tensions in the China-US trade war.

Trading floors around the world have been tense for several weeks owing to concerns about a number of factors including the trade war, Brexit, a global economic slowdown and tensions in the Middle East.

However, while markets remain on edge, equities have enjoyed a positive start to the week, with Germany reportedly planning government support to avert a recession in Europe’s biggest economy and central banks elsewhere looking to ease monetary policy.

Among the key events this week is a speech by Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell at the annual Jackson Hole symposium of central bankers in Wyoming.

His remarks will be pored over to see if he hints at another interest rate cut following last month’s move, and if so how deep it will be. However, some analysts have pointed out that while the US economy is showing signs of slowing, it remains healthy and Powell could decide no new help is needed just yet.

The Fed policy board “did not unanimously agree to the last 0.25 percent cut,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia-Pacific at OANDA. “US economic data continues to perform blissfully, implying the economy is doing just fine.

“Against that backdrop, I struggle to see why… Powell would hit the panic button at Jackson Hole this week. The financial markets could be setting themselves up for an ugly correction into the week’s end.”

Huawei hope tempered

Still, for now the mood is positive and by lunch Tokyo was up 0.4 percent, while Shanghai was slightly higher and Hong Kong was flat, weighed by profit-taking after four days of gains.

Sydney gained 0.6 percent, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei each put on 0.3 percent and Wellington rose 0.6 percent. Manila and Jakarta were both down.

The White House’s decision to delay again by 90 days a ban on US firms doing business with Huawei was taken as a conciliatory move towards China and provided hope.

The announcement followed comments from Donald Trump and key advisers expressing optimism over the talks, with top-level negotiations between the economic titans lined up for next month.

The news was tempered, however, by the Commerce Department adding 46 companies to its list of Huawei subsidiaries and affiliates that would be covered by the ban if it is implemented in full, taking the total on the list to more than 100.

The “details don’t necessarily suggest the US is making too many concessions on the China trade negotiations”, said Rodrigo Catril, senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.

Oil prices were flat, holding Monday’s strong gains — when Brent jumped 1.9 percent and WTI 2.4 percent — on hopes for the trade talks and stimulus and following a strike by Yemeni rebels on a Saudi Arabian oil field at the weekend. – AFP

Oil prices slip, but supported by hopes trade tensions could ease

SINGAPORE: Crude oil prices slipped on Tuesday, but losses were limited as equity markets rallied and as traders hoped Sino-U.S. trade tensions would ease.

The United States said it would extend a reprieve that permits China’s Huawei Technologies to buy components from U.S. companies, in a sign of a slight softening of the trade war between both countries.

Brent crude had slipped 3 cents, or 0.05%, to $59.71 a barrel by 0147 GMT, after rising 1.88% on Monday.

U.S. crude was down 15 cents, or 0.3%, at $56.06 a barrel, after gaining 2.44% in the previous session.

The extension sets a very “comforting tone” ahead of next month’s U.S.-China trade talks, Stephen Innes, managing partner, VM Markets, said in a note.

“The U.S.-China trade spat has been at the centre of the oil market demise, which has sent the global economy to the brink of recession and negatively impacted oil demand forecasts,” he said.

A rally in equity markets around the world from growing expectations that global economies would take action to counteract slowing growth also supported oil prices, which often follow stocks.

China’s central bank unveiled interest rate reforms which are expected to lower corporate borrowing costs, while Germany’s right-left coalition government said it would be prepared to ditch its balanced budget rule and take on new debt to counter a possible recession.

Meanwhile, a Reuters poll of seven analysts showed that crude oil inventories in the United States fell by 1.9 million barrels in the week to Aug. 16.

The poll was conducted ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, and the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The API is scheduled to release its data on Tuesday.

Still, prices were weighed down by a report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that stoked concerns about growth in oil demand.

OPEC cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10 million bpd and indicated the market would be in slight surplus in 2020.

Traders were also watching for signs of tension in the Middle East after the U.S. called the release of an Iranian tanker at the centre of an angry confrontation between Iran and Washington unfortunate and warned Greece and Mediterranean ports against helping the vessel. – Reuters

SunCon posts RM33m Q2 profit, pays 3.5 sen dividend

KUALA LUMPUR: Sunway Construction Group Bhd’s (SunCon) net profit for the second quarter ended June 30, 2019 fell 7.2% to RM33.19 million from RM35.77 million a year ago, due to lower contribution from both the construction and precast segments.

Subsequently, the group’s revenue decreased by 19.1% to RM440.18 million compared with RM544.28 million previously.

SunCon proposed its first interim dividend of 3.5 sen per share for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2019 which is more than 60% payout from year-to-date profit after tax and minority interest.

For the six-month period, its net profit fell 10.3% to RM64.2 million from RM71.54 million, while revenue dropped 18% to RM880.21 million from RM1.07 billion last year.

SunCon’s outstanding order book as at June 2019 amounted to RM5.8 billion with a total of RM1.54 billion in new orders received to date, exceeding management’s target of new order book wins of RM1.5 billion within 1H2019 with job wins totaling RM1.54 billion.

Group managing director Chung Soo Kiong said the group is still pursuing various tenders locally and abroad to secure their first overseas job this year.

“We are positive about the outlook for the domestic construction sector as the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link was revived. There are also opportunities within the sustainable energy sector such as in the development of Large Scale Solar Phase 3. We are expecting more projects to be announced in the next 12 months which was reflected with Bursa Malaysia’s FBM Construction Index gaining more than 40% since beginning of this year,” he said in a statement.

In addition to local prospects, Asean is also an exciting market which SunCon is exploring. In Myanmar, SunCon has teamed up with Capital Construction Ltd, the construction division of Capital Diamond Star Group and submitted a tender for mixed development project in Mandalay, Myanmar.

“We are also preparing to submit three bids in road infrastructure projects in India by end of this year or early next year. In Singapore, we have ventured into piling. SunCon is very hopeful to secure our first overseas project for the year,” he added.

Ringgit ends slightly higher

KUALA LUMPUR: The ringgit ended slightly higher against the US dollar today, tracking global cues on hopes that major economies will launch stimulus measures to counter a global economic slowdown.

At 6pm, the ringgit finished at 4.1750/1790 against the greenback from 4.1760/1810 on Friday.

Chief market strategist at FXTM Hussein Sayed said investors are counting on central banks to save the global economy and equity markets from further turbulence.

“If central banks prove they’re ready to act by delivering interest rate cuts and new quantitative easing programmes, expect equity markets to resume their rally after their recent plunge.

“Otherwise, expect more money to pour into gold and other safe havens such as the Japanese yen and Swiss franc,“ he added.

He said all eyes are on Thursday’s Jackson Hole annual meeting at Wyoming, where leaders from major central banks gather for more market clues amid the current volatile markets.

Against other major currencies, the ringgit was traded mixed.

The ringgit was better against the Japanese yen at 3.9183/9228 from 3.9230/9288 last Friday, and against the British pound at 5.0593/0645 from 5.0763/0828.

It weakened against the Singapore dollar to 3.0144/0184 from 3.0097/0140 last Friday and versus the the euro to 4.6338/6399 from 4.6283/6346. — Bernama

Majority of Malaysian SMEs yet to adopt Industry 4.0, say industry experts

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 19 — The lack of structure and collaboration between public and private sectors in pushing through the country’s Industry 4.0 Blueprint has led to a dismal number of local small-medium enterprises (SME) taking the leap to…