The China stock market is riding a five-day winning streak that has seen it add almost 100 points or 4 percent in the process while hitting a fresh eight-month high. The Shanghai Composite Index broke through resistance at 2,530 points, but analysts say that the market could surrender that level on Thursday amidst a raft of possibly disappointing economic data.
The National Bureau of Statistics will announce Q1 GDP, as well as March numbers for inflation, PPI, industrial production, retail sales and urban fixed asset investment. GDP is expected higher by 6.2 percent on year, slowing from the 6.8 percent expansion in the previous three months. Inflation is forecast to fall 1.3 percent after the 1.6 percent decline in February. PPI is called lower by 5.8 percent on year following the 4.5 percent contraction a month earlier. Industrial production is forecast to add an annual 6.3 percent after the 11 percent gain in February. Retail sales are projected higher by 15.1 percent on year, easing slightly from the 15.2 percent annual gain in the previous month. FAI is expected to add an annual 26.4 percent after gaining 26.5 percent a month earlier.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a touch of upside, in spite of some contradictory economic and corporate data. A proposal from U.S. President Barack Obama to overhaul the tax system gave the markets a lift, helping Wall Street to finish in positive territory. The European bourses ended mostly weaker, and the Asian markets are expected to stay close to the unchanged line.
The SCI finished slightly higher on Wednesday, as investors took profit from the current winning streak ahead of the GDP data. Gains among the resource sector were largely offset by weakness among the financials and the airlines.
For the day, the index added 8.88 points or 0.35 percent to close at 2,536.06 after trading between 2,485.93 and 2,542.54. Gains outnumbered losses by 524 to 320 in Shanghai and 468 to 260 in Shenzhen for a combined turnover of 268.93 billion yuan.
Among the gainers, Datong Coal Industry surged 6.19 percent, while Yanzhou Coal Mining jumped 4.8 percent and Western Mining rose 5.0 percent.
Finishing lower, China Southern Airlines lost 1.75 percent, while China Life lost 1.93 percent, Wuhan Iron & Steel fell 4.5 percent and Haitong Securities lost 1.8 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is optimistic as stocks moved sharply higher at the close of trading on Wednesday after showing a lack of direction throughout much of the session. The major averages all closed in positive territory after turning in a mixed performance for most of the day. The choppy trading seen for most of the day came as traders digested a slew of economic reports as well as earnings news from some big-name companies.
On the economic front, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report showed that overall economic activity has contracted further or remained weak, although it said five of the twelve Fed districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline. The Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in each of the twelve Fed districts, also noted that several districts saw signs that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level.
Earlier in the day, the Labor Department said its consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in March following a 0.4 percent increase the month before. The decline came as a surprise to economists, who had expected prices to edge up 0.1 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent for the third consecutive month. Economists had been expecting a 0.1 percent increase in core prices.
Separately, the Fed's industrial production report showed that production fell 1.5 percent in March, while capacity utilization dropped to 69.3 percent. Economists expected industrial production to decline 0.9 percent in March, while capacity utilization was expected to come in at 69.6 percent.
In corporate news, semiconductor giant Intel (INTC) reported first quarter earnings of $0.11 per share on revenues of $7.1 billion. While the results were down year-over-year, they exceeded analyst estimates of earnings of $0.03 per share on revenues of $6.98 billion. However, Intel disappointed investors by saying that was not providing a revenue outlook for the second quarter at this time due to economic uncertainty and limited visibility. Subsequently, shares of the semiconductor giant closed down 2.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) announced an increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.44 per share from $0.40 per share on its common stock. The news drove the stock up 3.2 percent.
In other news, President Obama pledged to reform the tax system Wednesday, calling for a simpler tax system that is fair to the middle-class. Speaking on the day that income taxes are due, the president focused on middle class families facing difficult decisions in the recession, and pledged to restructure the tax system.
While the major averages all closed above the unchanged line, the tech-heavy NASDAQ underperformed the Dow and the S&P 500 by a wide margin. The NASDAQ ended the session up 1.08 points or 0.1 percent at 1,626.80, while the Dow jumped 109.44 points or 1.4 percent to 8,029.62 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.56 points or 1.3 percent at 852.06.
In economic news, the Ministry of Commerce said on Wednesday that foreign direct investments into China decreased for the sixth month in a row in March. FDI decreased 9.5 percent year-on-year in March to US$8.4 billion. However, the decline in March was slower than the 15.8 percent drop registered in February.
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