Top foreign and local stories at 4pm

Energy

Brent crude was 0.10% higher to US$41.58 per barrel at 3.25pm.

Forex

Ringgit up 1.57% to 3.9950 versus the US dollar at 3.49pm.

Top foreign stories

Thai cabinet okays US$1.7b soft loans for lower-income first-home buyers: Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved soft loans worth 60 billion baht (US$1.72 billion) for lower-income first-home buyers, as it seeks to stimulate a sluggish economy via increased household spending. — Reuters

Japan’s lower house approves reflationist Sakurai for BoJ board: Japan’s lower house of parliament gave its approval on Tuesday for academic and reflationist Makoto Sakurai to join the Bank of Japan (BoJ)’s divided policy board, a move seen as tipping the balance more in favour of governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s push for radical stimulus. — Reuters

Thai telecoms firm misses 4G payment deadline: Thailand’s 4G expansion was thrown into disarray after a telecoms company that beat more established rivals at an auction last year failed to meet its first payment deadline, voiding the bid. - AFP

US top court agrees to hear Samsung-Apple patent fight: The US Supreme Court stepped into the high-profile patent fight between the world’s two fiercest smartphone rivals, Apple and Samsung, agreeing to hear Samsung’s appeal of what it contends were excessive penalties for copying the patented designs of the iPhone. — Reuters

Australia economy improving but jobs data ambiguous: Australia’s economy was improving and its financial system sound, a top central banker said on Tuesday, though he called recent evidence on jobs growth more “ambiguous.” — Reuters

Thai central bank likely to hold key rate: Thailand’s central bank on Wednesday is expected to leave its already-low policy rate where it has been for nearly a year, letting fiscal policy take the lead in trying to revive the sluggish domestic economy. — Reuters

First shipment for Chevron’s giant Australia gas project: One of the world’s biggest gas plants has begun shipping fuel after months of delays and cost overruns, operator Chevron said, with a vessel leaving Australia bound for Japan. — AFP

Top local stories

Scientex Q2 net profit rises 79% to RM64.6mil: Packaging firm Scientex Bhd reported a net profit of RM64.6mil for its second quarter, up 79% from RM36.05mil a year earlier. Revenue increased to RM545.43mil from RM462.87mil on improved contributions from its manufacturing and property development divisions. — StarBiz

Moody’s says Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand to lag Asean peers: The growth prospects of major Asean export-orientated economies of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are expected to remain weaker than their domestic demand-driven economies, says Moody’s Investors Service. It said on Tuesday the growth outlook of Asean economies was likely to diverge in 2016 and 2017, against the backdrop of subdued global demand. Moody’s vice-president and senior research analyst Rahul Ghosh said Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand’s growth prospects would remain weaker vis-a-vis those of Indonesia and the Philippines in 2016 and 2017. — StarBiz

Bank Rakyat posts RM2b profit, declares 13% dividend: Bank Rakyat, the largest Islamic cooperative movement in Malaysia, declared a cash dividend of 13%, amounting to RM385 million, for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2015, against 15% declared for 2014. The bank recorded a profit before tax and zakat (tithe) of RM2.01 billion last year versus RM2.19 billion in 2014. — Bernama

PNB announces 7.05 sen dividend for ASB 2: Amanah Saham Nasional Bhd, a unit of Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), has announced an income distribution of 7.05 sen per unit, or a total of RM213.07 million, for its Amanah Saham Bumiputera 2 (ASB 2) for the financial year ended March 31, 2016. — Bernama

Perak Sultan: Stricker conditions needed for new investments to reduce foreign workers: The Government needs to enforce stricter conditions on the aspect of the labour force when approving new investments in the manufacturing sector, alongside work permits for the services sector, to stem the flood of foreign workers, said Perak’s Sultan Nazrin Shah. — Bernama

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