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THE year 2021 began well for the stock market, as investors were betting on a global economic recovery. Commodity prices were also surging to new highs.
But emerging markets took a hit when Covid-19 cases led by the Delta variant began rising. Another headwind came in the form of China’s regulatory clampdown on its technology, education and property sectors.
As a result, the Malaysian stock market has been one of the worst performers in the region. The MSCI Emerging Market Index slipped by 1.6% in the first half of this year. In contrast, many major markets, especially the United States, surged significantly.
Since last year, foreign investors have been dumping Malaysian equities. In 2020, the local market saw net selling of RM24bil while another RM5.9bil of foreign holdings left the local market in the first half of this year, according to data by MIDF Research.
However, the trend seems to be reversing. Last week, the local stock market received a much-needed boost after foreign investors bought almost RM1bil worth of equities.
“There are signs the selldown has ended. Malaysia saw a surge in buying over the last week after three and half years of strong selling,” points out a recent report by Credit Suisse.
The local benchmark index, the FBM KLCI, which fell as much as 5.7% this year, managed to recover half of its losses over the last two weeks. This was driven by investors and fund managers who are of the view that uncertainties of economic growth have been reduced due to the country’s aggressive vaccination programme.
“There are also reduced political uncertainties and Malaysia looks attractive when compared with the stretched valuations in other markets,” says one fund manager.
The upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan and Budget 2022 are likely to provide more clarity and pave the way for further economic growth.
Should this performance sustain, the Malaysian market could chart a positive rebound by the end of this year.
Areca Capital Sdn Bhd executive director and chief executive officer Danny Wong Teck Meng expects local stocks to do better in the medium to long term.“Prices of equities are driven by a combination of liquidity flows, risk appetite and ultimately, the intrinsic value of the underlying assets. So, pandemic or not, our philosophy has remained the same.” - Danny Wong Teck Meng