The Hong Kong stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions since after snapping the three-day winning streak that saw it add nearly 1,200 points or 9 percent. The Hang Seng Index regained the 15,700-point plateau, but now analysts are expecting heavy losses at the opening of trade on Tuesday as the market follows the rest of the region to the downside.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is sharply negative after disturbing earnings news from Bank of America, which is expected to put financial stocks under heavy pressure throughout the region. The price of crude oil also plummeted overnight, which could put the heat on many of the resource stocks. The European and U.S. markets all suffered heavy losses across the board, and the Asian bourses are expecting a similar fate.
The Hang Seng finished modestly higher on Monday, as strength among the financials, properties and the airlines pushed the index into positive territory.
For the day, the index jumped 149.64 points or 0.96 percent to close at 15,750.91 after trading between 15,382.96 and 15,878.40 on turnover of 57.1 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the gainers, Bank of China jumped 5 percent, while Bank of Communications added 3.5 percent, BOC Hong Kong rose 2.9 percent, Air China rose 8.3 percent, China Eastern Airlines soared 16.9 percent, China Southern Airlines jumped 14 percent, Cheung Kong Holdings jumped 3.5 percent and New World Development added 4.1 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is broadly pessimistic as stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading day on Monday, with the major averages giving back some ground after closing higher for six straight weeks. A negative reaction to the latest earnings news inspired traders to do some profit taking.
Bank of America released its first-quarter results before the market open. While the company posted a better earnings figure than analysts had expected, a significant increase in loan loss protection made investors wary of holding onto the stock.
On the economic front, the Conference Board said its leading economic index fell 0.3 percent in March following a revised 0.2 percent decrease in February. The agency noted that the index has not risen in the past nine months.
In merger news, Sun Microsystems (JAVA) agreed to be acquired by Oracle (ORCL) for $9.50 per share in cash. The offer represents a 42 percent premium to Sun's closing price on Friday. Oracle expects the acquisition to be accretive to its earnings by at least $0.15 per share on a non-GAAP basis in the first full year after closing.
Additionally, Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG) and PepsiAmericas (PAS) showed strong upward moves after PepsiCo (PEP) offered to acquire both bottlers for about $6 billion.
Also, with the price of crude oil showing a steep decline, closing down $4.45 at $45.88 a barrel, the oil services sector saw substantial weakness. Reflecting the weakness in the sector, the Philadelphia Oil Services Index closed down 6.7 percent.
The major averages saw some further downside in the latter part of the trading day, ending the session near their worst levels of the day. The Dow closed down 289.60 points or 3.6 percent at 7,841.73, the NASDAQ closed down 64.86 points or 3.9 at 1,608.21 and the S&P 500 closed down 37.21 points or 4.3 percent at 832.39.
In economic news, Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department said on Monday that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate stood at 5.2 percent in the January to March period, up from 5 percent in the December to February period. Economists expected the rate to come in at 5.3 percent. Unadjusted, the number of unemployed persons increased to 187,200 in the January to March period from 172,000 in the previous three-month period.
At the same time, the number of underemployed persons rose to 79,200 from 76,100 in the preceding three-month period. The underemployment rate stood at 2.1 percent, unchanged from the previous period. Meanwhile, total employment decreased by 5,500 to 3.5 million in the January to March period. However, the labor force increased to an all-time high of 3.69 million from 3.68 million in the December to February period.
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