KUALA LUMPUR: The local bourse moved into negative territory less than an hour into the morning session as blue chips gave up early gains and Maybank weighed.
Regionally, equity markets were in the red as Wall Street came under pressure from declining oil prices.
US energy stocks including General Electric brought US indexes lower as oil prices slipped from 28-month highs achieved last week.
At midday, the FBM KLCI was 1.80 points lower at 1,731.81 points. Turnover was 1.3 billion shares with a value of RM862.63mil. There were 404 decliners to 185 advancers and 526 counters unchanged.
Heavyweight Maybank dropped 11 sen to RM9.23, shaving 1.9434 points off the KLCI.
Maxis was another leading laggard, falling nine sen to RM5.86, while IHH Healthcare droppped six sen to RM5.64 and Hong Leong Financial Group lost 16 sen to RM16.40
Gainers on the index included Genting Malaysia, which rose 11 sen to RM5.05; Digi, which added two sen to RM4.83; and Axiata, which put on two sen to RM5.37.
Oil counters were among the biggest losers on Bursa Malaysia. Petronas Dagangan dropped 26 sen to RM23.46. Refiner Petron Malaysia slipped 52 sen to RM11.74 while Hengyuan Refining Co dropped 36 sen to RM10.04.
Lafarge Malaysia advanced nine sen to RM6.79, MAHB rose eight sen to RM8.29 and Paramount gained seven sen to RM1.80.
Oil prices continued their declines on Wednesday as the International Energy Agency reported a negative outlook on Tuesday.
Reuters reported that the IEA cut its oil demand growth forecast by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) for this year and next, to an estimated 1.5 million bpd in 2017 and 1.3 million bpd in 2018.
US light crude dropped 60 cents to US$55.10 a barrel while Brent crude fell 77 cents to US$61.44 a barrel.
The ringgit strengthened against major currencies, gaining more ground since last week’s central bank comments that it may review the degree of monetary accommodation in accordance to improving macroeconomic conditions.
It rose 0.23% against the greenback to 4.1838, 0.06% against the pound sterling at 5.4991 and 0.01% against the Singapore dollar at 3.0790.