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=ASIA MARKETS: Singapore, Malaysia Stocks Dip For Fourth Straight Day After Choppy Trade

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 07) -- Malaysia and Singapore shares finished Friday lower for the fourth straight day each after a choppy session as investors juggled hopes of a slower pace of U.S. interest rate increases and renewed concerns over trade tensions.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index ended 0.1% lower at 3111.12 with a total weekly loss of 0.2%. Malaysia’s FBM KLCI meanwhile closed 0.2% lower at 1680.54, capping the week relatively unchanged.

“I don’t see any fundamental reason why there should be a December rally for Malaysia,” said Gan Eng Peng, head of equities at Affin Hwang Asset Management. “December rally comes on the back of positioning for new-year and the outlook for 2019 is muted.”

Market focus this week was on Sino-American relations even as the two nations agreed to a temporary truce over their ongoing trade war. The Nikkei Asia300 Index was up 0.2% with most markets in Asia in the positive territory.

The gains follow remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the world’s largest economy was performing very well, which bolstered hopes of a slower pace of rate increases next year.

While the U.S. central bank is widely expected to deliver its fourth rate-increase of the year later this month, expectations for next year’s monetary policy path are mixed. Markets await U.S. nonfarm payrolls numbers for November, due later Friday, for further cues.

Crude oil prices declined after Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries delayed its decision on production cuts pending support from non-OPEC member Russia. Brent crude slid below $60 a barrel in the previous session and in early Asia trading on Friday.

Oil and gas services firm Dialog Group fell 1.6% in Malaysia while offshore and marine company Sembcorp Industries dropped 1.1% in Singapore.

Sapura Energy reversed early gains to end with 1.4% loss in Malaysia despite reporting a narrower net loss. Keppel also edged lower, finishing 0.3% lower, after announcing a deal with PT Metropolitan Land to invest up to 5 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($345 million) for Jakarta residential projects.

AMMB Holdings gained 2.3% while Top Glove Corp rose as much as 2.5% before ending flat. Both companies are set to be added to Malaysia’s benchmark equity index on Dec. 24 following a semi-annual review.

In corporate news, CITIC Envirotech climbed 1.2% after the environmental engineering services company said it secured two engineering, procurement and construction contracts worth 490 million yuan ($71.3 million) in China.

Developer UOL Group added 0.3% after saying it entered an agreement with Proprium Capital Partners for the acquisition of a property in Sydney, Australia for A$154.52 million ($111.5 million).

Healthcare products maker Haw Par fell 0.7% after saying Zann Lim resigned as its chief financial officer.

- By Jason Ng and Suzannah Benjamin;; +60320267363
- Edited by Abhrajit Gangopadhyay
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