PETALING JAYA – HLIB Research said it anticipates limited upside in the market, which is expected to remain in range-bound mode towards year-end, in line with its moderate outlook for gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the following quarters.

In a report last Friday, its analyst Sia Ket Ee said although the first quarter results (Q1 2017) this year came in mostly within the research house’s expectations (62%), they do not mirror the sharp improvement in the GDP growth.

Malaysia’s GDP grew 5.6% in Q1 2017, against 4.1% registered in the same quarter of 2016.

Contrary to an expectation of favourable improvement, Sia said Q1 2017 reporting season only staged a slight progress over Q4 2016.
Sia said while more than half (58%) of HLIB universe came in within expectations, a lower percentage surprised on the upside, and almost the same percentage of companies reported lower than expected results.

He said among the notable sectors that disappoint include building materials, consumer, healthcare and media. In terms of stock ratings, he said there were four downgrades and eight upgrades.

Meanwhile, Sia said the research house expects foreign investors to taper their purchase into emerging markets equities after a euphoria on equity rush earlier this year.

He said the commodity markets have recently become unstable while strong expectations for spillover from Trump pro-growth policies have also faded.

“We maintain our end-2017 FBM KLCI target at 1,760 based on 16 times (historical mean) one-year forward earnings.

“Stock picking becomes more important as we expect broad rally to wither. We like stocks with earnings certainty preferably with domestic-oriented catalysts,” he added.

HLIB Research’s top picks include big-to-mid cap companies such as Gamuda Bhd, Genting Bhd, DRB-Hicom Bhd, George Kent (Malaysia) Bhd and Time dotcom Bhd.

On a separate note, PublicInvest Research said its expected year-end 2017 index target is lifted to 1,820 points (on a bottom-up approach, which also corresponds to a 16.5 times multiple to one-year forward earnings).

“The current round of earnings reports were devoid of shockingly large impairment numbers symptomatic with previous quarters, which is a much welcome (and needed) sight. As a result of some minor changes to our crude palm oil (CPO) assumptions in line with our recent downgrade of the plantations sector (overweight to neutral), our earnings growth assumptions for 2017 and 2018 are 4.1% and 5.4% respectively.

“We retain our overweight stance on the power, oil and gas and construction sectors. We still suggest selective exposure into the banking sector, as valuations remain relatively attractive,” it said.

– Sundaily