The global forecast for the Asian markets is slightly positive, with the financial shares expected to stage a minor rally while the automobile producers may see some caution. Some lukewarm economic data out of the United States may slightly boost sentiment, as might commodities on a weaker greenback. The European markets were mixed, while the U.S. bourses ended generally higher - and the Asian markets are also expected to trade in mixed fashion.
The Hang Seng finished sharply lower on Tuesday, thanks to selling pressure among the properties and the financials. For the day, the index lost 194.90 points or 1.07 percent to close at 18,058.49 after trading between 17,710.45 and 18,475.51 on turnover of 71.93 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the decliners, Sun Hung Kai Properties dropped 1.1 percent, while Sino Land fell 3.7 percent, Wharf Holdings was down 2.2 percent, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China shed 2.3 percent and Tencent dropped 4.4 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is cautiously optimistic as stocks showed some life in afternoon trading on Tuesday, finishing largely on the upside after being plagued by choppy trading for much of the session. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 saw some strength on the day, while the Dow drifted lower just before the closing bell.
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced that 10 of the largest U.S. financial institutions borrowing money from the Treasury are planning on paying back their loans. Organizations such as JP Morgan Chase (JPM), U.S. Bancorp (USB) and Bank of New York Mellon (BK) will repay a total of $68 billion.
President Barack Obama praised the move, noting that the government has turned a profit from the first round of repayments. He also offered cautious optimism that the financial system is stabilizing. While Obama said that the announcement that banks are relying less on Treasury assistance is welcome news, he said it does not excuse the actions of the banks. The president also announced his intention to instate the pay as you go program, restricting the amount of money lawmakers can spend to only what they can save in other areas.
On the economic front, wholesale inventories fell by a little more than expected in the month of April, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday, with the report also showing a modest decrease in wholesale sales. The report showed that wholesale inventories fell 1.4 percent in April following a revised 1.8 percent decrease in March. Economists had expected inventories to decrease by about 1.1 percent compared to the 1.6 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.
Additionally, the Commerce Department said that wholesale sales edged down 0.4 percent in April after falling by a more significant 2.4 percent in March. Wholesale sales were down 19.5 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
In corporate news, bankrupt automaker Chrysler's planned asset sale to a group led by Italian automaker Fiat was thrown into uncertainty after a U.S. Supreme Court Justice issued a stay on the sale. The stay was sought by a group of Indiana pension funds.
General Motors Corp. (GMGMQ.PK) also announced that Edward Whitacre Jr., former chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AT&T (T) would become chairman of the new GM when the company is re-launched later this summer. Kent Kresa will continue to serve as interim chairman until the launch.
Stocks finished the day mostly higher, led by gains in the technology sector. The tech-heavy NASDAQ closed up by 17.73 points or 1 percent at 1,860.13 and the S&P 500 rose 3.29 points or 0.4 percent to 942.43, while the Dow slipped by 1.43 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 8,763.06.
In economic news, China is on Wednesday set to announce May numbers for its consumer and producer price indexes. Analysts are expecting inflation to fall 1.3 percent on year after the 1.5 percent annual contraction in April. Producer prices are called lower by 6.9 percent on year after the 6.6 percent annual decline in the previous month.
In corporate news, China Agritech Inc. announced that it has entered into a six-year marketing and distribution agreement with Odyssey International Group Ltd., a Hong Kong corporation. This strategic agreement provides for Odyssey to have the exclusive marketing and distribution rights for the company's series of organic liquid compound fertilizers in certain markets in China and abroad.
Also, HSBC Insurance (Asia) Ltd., unit of HSBC Holdings, said it received final approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission to launch a jointly held insurance company with Beijing-based National Trust Ltd. The new company, HSBC Life Insurance Company Ltd., will open for business in the third quarter of 2009. HSBC Insurance and National Trust will each hold 50 percent in the new company.
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