RTTNews - The Singapore stock market has finished higher now in two of four trading days since it halted the two-day winning streak in which it had gathered more than 60 points or 2.4 percent. The Straits Times Index is closing on resistance at the 2,560-point plateau, and now investors are hoping for continued movement to the upside when the market opens for business on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is broadly optimistic as the markets are expected to extend the gains that were nearly region-wide a day earlier. Financials and properties are predicted to continue their recovery from the savage selloff earlier in the week. The European and U.S. markets finished solidly higher, and the Asian markets are expected to track those gains.

The STI was sharply higher on Thursday, in line with other regional gains after a sharp rebound in China. Financials led the market's recovery following steep losses a day earlier, while properties and airlines also put on solid gains.

For the day, the index was up 36.79 points or 1.46 percent to finish at 2,559.57 after trading between 2,529.99 and 2,565.82. Volume was 2.35 billion shares worth 1.61 billion Singapore dollars. There were 357 gainers and 140 decliners, with 791 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the gainers, Singapore Airlines, CapitaLand, Chartered Semiconductor, Neptune Orient Lines, DBS, United Overseas Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp all finished higher. Singapore Telecom underperformed to buck the trend.

The lead from Wall Street is firmly positive as stocks saw strong gains on Thursday, helped by some upbeat news from the manufacturing sector that helped to offset a disappointing jobs report. The major averages all finished in positive territory by solid margins, extending their gains for a third straight session.

Some buying interest was generated by the release of a report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve saying that manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region showed some signs of stabilization. The Philly Fed said its index of current activity rose to 4.2 in August from a negative 7.5 in July, with a positive reading indicating growth in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a negative 2.0. With the bigger than expected increase, the index rose above zero for the first time since September of 2008 and reached its highest level since November of 2007.

Separately, research group the Conference Board said that its leading economic indicators index increased for the fourth consecutive month in July, signifying a likely improvement in economic conditions in the near term. The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent in July following a 0.7 percent increase in June.

Earlier, the Labor Department released a report showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased to 576,000 in the week ended August 15 from the previous week's revised figure of 561,000. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 550,000 from the 558,000 originally reported for the previous week. Despite the recent concerns regarding the battered labor market, the disappointing data saw little reaction.

On the earnings front, traders also digested quarterly results from Sears Holdings (SHLD), NetApp (NTAP), PetSmart (PETM), Rio Tinto Group (RTP) and Heinz (HNZ), among others.

The major averages reached new highs for the session in the final hour of trading, but they gave back some ground going into the close. The Dow closed up by 70.89 points or 0.8 percent at 9,350.05, the NASDAQ climbed by 19.98 points or 1 percent to 1,989.22 and the S&P 500 rose by 10.91 points or 1.1 percent to 1,007.37.

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