RTTNews - The Malaysian stock market has finished higher now in five straight sessions, jumping more than 35 points or 3.2 percent on the way to its highest score so far this year. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index moved above the 1,170-point plateau, although investors are now bracing for a mild retreat at the opening of trade on Wednesday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is finally downbeat and could signal the end of several lengthy winning streaks in the region. Weakness among the commodity stocks is expected to weight heavily, while steel producers and technology shares could also ease on profit taking. The European markets ended firmly in the red and the U.S. markets also were mostly lower, and the Asian markets also are expected to move to the downside.

The KLCI finished sharply higher on Tuesday, thanks to major gains among the plantations and the financial stocks, while the industrial issues finished with more modest gains.

For the day, the index surged 15.95 points or 1.38 percent to close at 1,172.38 after trading between 1,155.89 and 1,174.01. Volume was 1.123 billion shares worth 1.633 billion ringgit. There were 492 gainers and 192 decliners, with 249 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Genting, Sime Darby, Maybank, Bumiputra-Commerce, Tenaga and Lion Corporation all finished higher, while KNM and SAAG Consolidated fell under selling pressure.

The lead from Wall Street is mildly negative as stocks closed Tuesday's session on a mixed note in reaction to the day's varied earnings and economic reports following a choppy trading session. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged mark, with the tech-heavy NASDAQ posting a modest gain.

On the economic front, consumer confidence deteriorated by more than expected in the month of July, according to a report released by the Conference Board this morning. The decrease reflected less favorable assessments of both current conditions and the near-term outlook. The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index fell to 46.6 in July from an unrevised 49.3 in June. Economists had been expecting a much more modest decline by the index to a reading of about 49.0.

Also, the Standard and Poor's /Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index fell at an annual rate of 17.1 percent in May compared to the 18.1 percent decrease reported for April. Economists had expected the report to show that prices fell 17.9 percent year-over-year. On a monthly basis, S&P said that 13 of the 20 metro areas reported positive returns, contributing to the first monthly increase by the 20-city composite since the summer of 2006. The 20-city composite index rose 0.5 percent for the month.

In earnings news, Valero Energy (VLO), Amgen (AMGN) and Manitowoc (MTW) reported earnings that beat analyst estimates. On the other hand, Office Depot (ODP) fell well short of analyst forecasts. Meanwhile, IBM Corp. (IBM) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SPSS Inc. (SPSS). The all-cash transaction has a price of $50 per share, resulting in a total cash consideration of approximately $1.2 billion.

The major averages saw further choppy movement to close out another low volume session. While the NASDAQ closed up by 7.62 points or 0.4 percent at 1,975.51, the Dow fell by 11.79 points or 0.1 percent to 9,096.72 and the S&P 500 slipped by 2.56 points or 0.3 percent to 979.62.

In economic news, the Malaysian central bank is on Wednesday afternoon scheduled to release its interest rate decision for July, with analysts predicting that the bank will maintain rates at the current 2 percent.

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