RTTNews - The winning streak has hit three sessions now for the Hong Kong stock market, which has surged more than 1,100 points or 6.5 percent in that time. The Hang Seng Index has closed above the 18,300-point plateau, and now investors are looking for continued gains at the opening of trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets remains cautiously optimistic, although several of the regional bourses have spiked in recent sessions and are due for a downward correction or a spate of profit taking. Some mildly positive economic and corporate data should add to the positive sentiment. The European and U.S. markets ended modestly higher, and the Asian bourses are tipped to follow that lead as well - although the gains may fade as the trading day progresses.

The Hang Seng finished modestly higher on Thursday, pushed higher by gains among the commodities and the telecoms. The energy stocks were a key drag on the index, while the financials came in mixed.

For the day, the index gained 103.21 points or 0.6 percent to finish at 18,361.87 after trading between 18,303.58 and 18,700.60 on turnover of 70.85 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the gainers, China Merchants Holdings surged 6.4 percent, while Cosco Pacific added 2.8 percent, China Mobile gained 0.7 percent and Chalco was up 1.2 percent. Finishing lower, CLP Holdings eased 0.7 percent, Hong Kong Electric fell 1.4 percent and Hong Kong & China Gas was off 0.1 percent.

The lead from Wall Street continues to be positive as stocks showed signs of life in afternoon trading on Thursday, ending the day sharply higher after a lackluster start to the session. The major averages all finished in positive territory by solid margins, extending a recent upward move despite largely mixed economic and earnings news.

On the economic front, a report from the Labor Department showed that first time claims for unemployment benefits continued to decrease in the week ended July 11, with initial jobless claims falling by more than economists had been expecting.

Jobless claims fell to 522,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 569,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to fall to about 530,000 from the 565,000 originally reported for the previous week. However, analysts pointed out that seasonal issues in the auto sector have continued to impact jobless claims, skewing the data artificially lower.

Some pessimism on the day came after a Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report showed that the index of manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region fell by more than economists had been expecting.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders released a report showing an increase in homebuilder confidence in the month of July, with homebuilders seeing an improvement in current sales conditions.

On the earnings front, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) reported second-quarter net income that blew away Wall Street estimates, but Xilinx Inc. (XLNX), Cintas (CTAS), Harley Davidson (HOG), and Marriott International (MAR) offered a mixed bag of results.

The major averages pulled back off of their best levels of the day heading into the close, but they were able to post considerable gains on the session. The Dow closed up by 95.61 points or 1.1 percent at 8,711.82, the NASDAQ climbed by 22.13 points or 1.2 percent to 1,885.03 and the S&P 500 rose by 8.06 points or 0.9 percent to 940.74.

In economic news, the National Bureau of Statistics said that China's GDP grew 7.9 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, faster than the 6.1 percent growth in the first quarter, and above economists' expectations of 7.8 percent growth. In the first half of the year, the yearly growth was 7.1 percent.

All the sectors contributed to the growth in the second quarter. Value added by the primary sector and the secondary sector rose 3.8 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, while value addition by the tertiary sector grew 8.3 percent.

Industrial production in China surged up 9.1 percent in the second quarter, faster than a 5.1 percent rise in the preceding quarter.

At the same time, investments in fixed assets in the country climbed 33.5 percent year-on-year in the first six months of the year, up 7.2 percentage points from the growth in the same period last year. Investments in fixed assets in the urban areas showed robust growth in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.

In June, the consumer price index dropped 1.7 percent year-on-year, while for the first half of the year, consumer prices were down 1.1 percent. At the same producer prices fell 7.8 percent in June and dropped 5.9 percent in the first half of the year. Economists expected the consumer prices to fall 1.3 percent year-on-year in June, while they anticipated a 7.4 percent annual fall in producer prices.

Retail sales rose 15 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year as also in June. Economists were expecting retail sales to climb 15.3 percent in June, after a 15.2 percent rise in the preceding month. After adjusting for price effects, the real retail sales grew 16.6 percent, up 3.7 percentage points from the same period last year.

The trade surplus in the six months ended June decreased by US$ 2.1 billion from last year to US$ 96.9 billion. Exports were down 21.8 percent year-on-year, while imports fell 25.4 percent.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com