Khamis, 2 Januari 2014

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The Star Online: Business

Weak start for Malaysian shares in 2014

Posted: 02 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: The local bourse kicked off the new year on a weaker note, dragged down by steep declines among blue-chip stocks with some investors booking quick profits following a sharp run-up towards the end of 2013.

Regional markets were mixed on the first trading day of the year. Thailand's SET Index dived 5.2% yesterday to 1,230.77 points on domestic political worries, but stocks were higher by 1.2% in Indonesia and little changed in Hong Kong.

"Last month was a pretty good month for blue chips. Sentiment for blue chips such as Telekom Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional and Public Bank, among others, was pretty high, so investors could have taken the advantage to take some profit," said Areca Capital Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Danny Wong.

Shares of Public Bank tumbled yesterday after the bank said it would merge its local and foreign tranches into a single counter. Shares in Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd led losing stocks, down 58 sen or 2.3% to RM24.32, followed by Petronas Dagangan Bhd down 46 sen, or 1.5%, to RM30.98 and Tenaga Nasional Bhd 20 sen lower, or 1.7%, to RM11.18.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index fell 14 points to 1,852.95 yesterday with 1.25 billion shares valued at RM1.35bil changing hands. There were 347 gainers against 406 losers while 302 counters were unchanged.

Pacific Mutual Bhd executive director and chief executive officer Gary Gan said market volatility could also bring about potential opportunities where the use of accumulative investment strategies to ride out violent market swings could ultimately position one's portfolio for eventual optimum results.

"Looking at the local equity market, although we have seen the index hitting record levels recently, there are still sectors with attractive propositions that should continue to do well in the short to medium term," he said in a statement.

"The oil and gas, plantations, utility, construction and consumer sectors, as bolstered by positive newsflows from the recently announced Budget 2014, will continue to be the key drivers for the coming quarters but stockpicking will be key."

Market sentiment for the year is generally positive, analysts said.

Wong said the upcoming expected initial public offerings (IPOs) were a sign of liquidity in the market. However, he notes that investors should be selective in picking which IPOs to participate, based on industry and rationale for the listing.

"Relative to IPOs, it is not so broad-based that everything will go up," he said.

StarBiz reported in November that at least nine major listings are in the works this year, estimated to raise more than RM18.4bil from the market. These include Iskandar Waterfront Holdings, Medini Iskandar Malaysia, Malakoff Corp Bhd and 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Meanwhile, Areca Capital's strategy for the year is focused on small to mid-cap stocks that have strong fundamentals, riding on external factors. The US economy, which is recovering on a slow and gradual pace, bodes well for the economies of emerging markets.

Wong said oil and gas companies, export-oriented firms and businesses that benefited from the subsidy rationalisation programme would contribute to the overall positive outlook this year.

"Small to mid caps that were overlooked last year might have their day this year," he said.

Snapchat says millions of user accounts compromised

Posted: 02 Jan 2014 07:18 PM PST

SAN FRANCISCO: Snapchat, the red-hot private messaging service, said on Thursday that it knew for months about a security loophole that allowed hackers this week to harvest millions of phone numbers and announced changes to its systems.

An anonymous group called Snapchat DB posted the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million Snapchat users on New Year's Eve, days after the startup - headed by 23-year old founder Evan Spiegel - brushed off warnings that its app still contained security loopholes.

The hacker group, which claimed to be based in the United States and Europe, made the entire database available for download but redacted the last two digits of every phone number. Snapchat DB said it was working to raise awareness about Snapchat's security holes, not out of malicious intent.

In its first public statement since the leak, Snapchat said in a blog post on Thursday that no "snaps" - the contents of messages - were compromised or accessed as part of the hack.

Snapchat was first alerted to the vulnerability in August by a security group called Gibson Security. Snapchat said it made changes to its system to address the weaknesses, but the company also published a blog post downplaying the threat as "theoretical" on December 27.

Snapchat DB carried out the hack and disclosed the phone numbers just four days later.

The hack was a rare black eye for a high-flying appmaker started by Stanford University undergraduates in 2011. Snapchat has soared in popularity over the past year because it allows its users - mostly teens - to send private pictures and messages that self-destruct after 10 seconds at most.

Snapchat's immense popularity among young users has made it one of the most closely watched social media companies in the world, and Facebook Inc <FB.O> reportedly offered $3 billion last year in a failed acquisition bid.

Snapchat asks new users for their phone number so that their friends can find them on the service. The phone numbers were not attached to any real names.

Calling the hackers' disclosure an "abuse" of its system, Snapchat said Thursday that it was first told by security experts in August that its "Find Friends" feature may contain a weakness.

The company did not apologize for the leaks but said it would carry out some changes to prevent further unwanted disclosures.

"We will be releasing an updated version of the Snapchat application that will allow Snapchatters to opt out of appearing in Find Friends after they have verified their phone number," the company wrote. "We're also improving rate limiting and other restrictions to address future attempts to abuse our service."

Rate limiting restricts how many times a party can query the Snapchat servers.


In an email to Reuters, the group claiming to be behind the New Years Eve hack called it "promising" that Snapchat was beginning to address its security vulnerabilities.

"Let's hope they aren't trying to downplay the situation once again and avoid the heat, but instead taking reasonable steps to secure sensitive user information," Snapchat DB said. "Actions speak louder than words."- Reuters

China Dec services PMI falls to 4-mnth low

Posted: 02 Jan 2014 07:11 PM PST

BEIJING: Growth in China's services sector fell to a four-month low in December as business expectations dropped, a government survey showed, adding to evidence that the world's second-largest economy lost steam into the close of 2013.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the non-manufacturing sector dropped to 54.6 in December from November's 56, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.

While the services PMI held above the 50 level that indicates expansion, slackening growth mirrors a fourth-quarter cooldown in factory activity and the broader economy as credit supply moderated and firms rebuilt inventories more slowly.

Ting Lu, an economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, said another factor was the fading effect of China's "mini" economic stimulus rolled out in mid-2013 to prop up slowing activity.

"There was pent-up demand in the third quarter and we don't expect it to be sustained in the fourth quarter," he said, adding he expected quarterly growth to ease to 2 percent in the December quarter, from 2.2 percent in the previous three months.

The services PMI follows two manufacturing PMIs out this week that showed growth in China's factories slowing in December as export orders weakened.

Friday's survey showed a sub-index for business expectations sagged to 58.7 last month from November's 61.3, dragged down by the property and water transportation sectors where firms expected activity to contract.

New orders held steady at 51, though the poll showed price pressures were building. A sub-index for intermediate prices climbed to 56.9 in December from November's 54.8, while prices charged rose to 52 from 49.5.

Rising prices are in line with a widely held view among economists that inflation will grind higher in coming years, as a depleting supply of low-cost labor pushes up wage and production costs.

A Reuters poll in October found economic growth was expected to be 7.6 percent in 2013, a shade higher than the government's 7.5 percent target but still the weakest rate in 14 years.

A separate PMI survey of the services industry by Markit Economics and HSBC will be released on Jan 6. That survey covers more smaller, private firms than the official PMI.- Reuters


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