The Hong Kong stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions, gathering more than 1,100 points or 8 percent on its way to its highest point so far this year. The Hang Seng Index shattered resistance at 15,500 points, but now analysts say the market could hand it right back at the opening of trade on Wednesday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is broadly negative after several sessions of gain. Some weak economic data out of the United States adds to the negative sentiment, although it is tempered by positive earnings news. The European markets all ended higher following Monday's holiday, while the U.S. markets ended significantly lower - and the Asian bourses are tipped to follow the latter lead.
The Hang Seng finished sharply higher on Tuesday, following the four-day weekend for the Easter holiday. Financials ended sharply higher, as did the insurers and commodities. For the day, the index surged 678.75 points or 4.55 percent to close at 15,580.16 after trading between 15,140.39 and 15,596.34 on turnover of 75.4 billion Hong Kong dollars.
The financials led the market to the upside as HSBC Holdings surged 9.33 percent, while Hang Seng Bank added 4.03 percent, Bank of Communications advanced 5.44 percent, Bank of China rose 4.61 percent, Bank of East Asia moved up 5.77 percent, BOC Hong Kong soared 11.58 percent, Ping An gained 1.62 percent and China Life added 1.25 percent.
Also finishing higher, Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) rose 11.05 percent, while CNOOC gained 7.73 percent, PetroChina advanced 4.43 percent, China Resources advanced 5.95 percent, China Mercantile Holdings gained 5.34 percent, China Overseas moved up 2.73 percent, China Shenhua gained 10.5 percent, China Coal Energy was up 9.3 percent and Yanzhou Coal advanced 13.7 percent.
Wall Street offers a pessimistic lead as stocks saw substantial weakness during trading on Tuesday. Traders reacted to disappointing retail sales data and largely shrugged off some optimistic comments from President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke.
Stocks showed a notable decline in early trading after a report from the Commerce Department showed that retail sales fell 1.1 percent in March following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent increase in February. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.3 percent.
Separately, the Labor Department said that its producer price index fell 1.2 percent in March compared to economist estimates of a flat reading. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, were unchanged compared to the previous month.
In corporate news, Goldman Sachs (GS) reported a first quarter profit that rose year-over-year and came in well above analyst estimates. The company also said that it has started a $5 billion public offering of its common stock, which may be used to repay TARP funds.
Additionally, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) also released first quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates. The company reported earnings of $1.26 per share compared to the $1.22 per share that was anticipated.
In other news, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that there have been tentative signs of a slowing in the steep economic decline, offering hope that the worst of the recession may be drawing to a close. Speaking at Atlanta's Morehouse College, Bernanke cited statistics in home sales, homebuilding, and consumer spending, with sales of new motor vehicles showing some signs of leveling out.
Bernanke's remarks reflected those of President Barack Obama, who also spoke Tuesday regarding the hopeful signs in the economy. Obama, offered hopeful remarks in a speech at Georgetown University and praised the recent actions by his administration, including the $787 billion recovery act.
The major averages all closed firmly in negative territory, although off their worst levels of the day. The Dow closed down 137.63 points or 1.7 percent at 7,920.18, the NASDAQ closed down 27.59 points or 1.7 percent at 1,625.72 and the S&P 500 closed down 17.23 points or 2.0 percent at 841.50.
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