RTTNews - The Hong Kong stock market on Wednesday saw an end to the three-day winning streak in which it had gathered more than 1,000 points or 6 percent. The Hang Seng Index fell below the 17,500-point plateau, and now investors are bracing for another day of decline at the opening of trade on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is slightly negative on fresh concerns that the worldwide economic slowdown may last longer than originally thought - which could put the financials under pressure. The price of crude oil rose back above $62 to a six-month high, which is expected to provide support for the commodity plays. The European markets provide a positive lead, while the U.S. markets all ended modestly in the red - and the Asian markets are also projected to trend lower.

The Hang Seng finished slightly lower on Wednesday, as weakness among the financials and brokerages was largely offset by gains among the auto sector. For the day, the index eased 68.19 points or 0.39 percent to close at 17,475.84 after trading between 17,362.37 and 17,611.00 on turnover of 73.859 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the decliners, CNOOC fell 0.76 percent, while China Oilfield Service slid 0.62 percent, Cheung Kong slipped 1.86 percent, Hutchison Whampoa fell 2.31 percent, Hopson Development Holdings slid 3.55 percent, Agile Property Holdings shed 3.47 percent, China Life Insurance eased 0.53 percent and Ping An Insurance slid 1.13 percent.

Finishing higher, PICC Property & Casualty jumped 4.63 percent, while HSBC Holdings added 0.33 percent, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical rose 2.06 percent, Sinopec added 1.72 percent, PetroChina was up 0.71 percent, SOHO China rose 1.42 percent, Sun Hung Kai Properties was up 0.41 percent, Henderson Land Development rose 1.50 percent, Denway Motors rose 0.53 percent, Great Wall Motor was up 5.81 percent, Dongfeng Motor Group added 0.76 percent and Sinotruk (Hong Kong) gained 4.34 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is modestly pessimistic as stocks finished Wednesday's trading session modestly lower, unable to sustain earlier gains. The major averages all slipped into negative territory in mid-afternoon dealing, closing just off of their worst levels of the day. Trading this week has been largely subdued as many traders sat on the sidelines following considerable profit taking last week, prompted by the run up in equities in recent months.

Traders digested the latest minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee released earlier this afternoon, which revealed some debate within the policymaking arm of the Federal Reserve over whether or not to purchase additional treasury securities. Although the final decision was to stick with the $300 billion agreed on at the March meeting, in late April some officials thought that purchasing more could spur recovery. While there was some debate over whether or not additional purchases would be needed, officials agreed that such a purchase was not warranted at that time.

Earlier, traders heard comments from treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who issued cautious optimism regarding the recovery of the embattled financial sector, while Bank of America (BAC) was able to raise a substantial amount of capital, further bolstering prospects for the industry. The day's trading was also impacted by better-than-expected earnings from Target (TGT) and Deere (DE).

In other news, the House of Representatives passed a landmark credit card industry reform bill Wednesday afternoon, sending legislation designed to crack down on the credit card industry to President Barack Obama. The 361-64 vote sends the bill Obama's desk and he is expected to sign it as early as Friday.

The major averages all closed slightly lower a late day selloff dragged the indices into negative territory. The Dow closed lower by 52.81 points or 0.62 percent to finish at 8422.04, while the NASDAQ was down 6.70 points or 0.39 percent to end at 1727.84, and the S&P 500 slipped by 4.66 points or 0.51 percent to finish at 903.47.

In economic news, Hong Kong will on Thursday release consumer price index numbers for April. Forecasts call for inflation to ease to 1 percent from the current 1.2 percent.

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