The Hong Kong stock market on Thursday ended the two-day losing streak that had cost it nearly 900 points or 6 percent in the process. The Hang Seng Index regained the 15,000-point plateau one day after surrendering it, and now analysts say the market can add to its totals at the opening of trade on Friday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a touch of upside, thanks to some inconsistent corporate news and disappointing economic reports. The European markets all finished solidly in the red, while the U.S. bourses ended modestly higher. The Asian markets have seen choppy and volatile trade all week, and they are predicted to end the week in the same fashion - perhaps slightly to the upside.
The Hang Seng finished sharply higher on Thursday, thanks to bargain hunting after the recent skid - particularly among the financials.
For the day, the index jumped 336.01 points or 2.3 percent to close at 15,214.46 after trading between 14,867.59 and 15,222.20 on turnover of 52.61 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the actives, HSBC Holdings rose 2.5 percent, while Bank of China rose 2.5 percent, Bank of Communications added 2.0 percent, China Life jumped 4.0 percent and PCCW fell 13.1 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is fairly optimistic as stocks ultimately ended Thursday's trading session mostly higher after showing considerable uncertainty in the earlier portion of the trading day on weak economic data.
In economic news, a report released by the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits climbed roughly in line with economist estimates in the week ended April 18. Jobless claims rose to 640,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 613,000. At the same time, the Labor Department said that continuing claims in the week ended April 11th rose to another new record high of 6.14 million from the preceding week's revised level of 6.04 million.
Additionally, the National Association of Realtors released its report on existing home sales in the month of March, showing that the annual rate of sales fell 3.0 percent to 4.57 million. Economists had expected existing home sales to slip to a 4.65 million unit rate.
On the corporate front, Apple (AAPL) reported net income for the second quarter of $1.33 per share, compared to $1.16 per share for the year-ago quarter. Revenue for the second quarter rose to $8.16 billion from $7.51 billion in the prior year quarter. Analysts' consensus estimates had called for Apple to earn $1.09 per share on revenue of $7.96 billion for the second quarter. The better than expected results were primarily due to strong iPhone sales.
Meanwhile, UPS (UPS) reported adjusted first quarter earnings of $0.52 per share, down from $0.87 per share last year and $0.04 below analyst estimates. Revenue also failed to meet analysts' target, falling nearly 14 percent to $10.94 billion.
In other news, President Obama said he would push for a law to provide strong and reliable protections for the millions of Americans who have credit cards after meeting with chief executives of the credit-card lending industry. Obama said he wants legislation that will prevent consumers from facing a sudden, surprising rise in fees, and that companies must make it easier for people to do comparison shopping.
The major averages all moved higher going into the close after bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line for much of the session. The Dow closed up 70.49 points or 0.9 percent at 7,957.06, the NASDAQ closed up 6.09 points or 0.4 percent at 1,652.21 and the S&P 500 closed up 8.37 points or 1.0 percent at 851.92.
In economic news, Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department said on Thursday that the consumer price index rose 1.2 percent year-over-year in March, bigger than a 0.8 percent increase in February. The consumer price inflation came in line with economists' expectations. A year ago, consumer prices were up 4.2 percent. On a seasonally adjusted basis, average monthly consumer prices were almost unchanged during the January to March period. In the first quarter, composite CPI rose 1.7 percent on year.
In corporate news, China Life Insurance saw first-quarter net income climb 55 percent from the year-earlier quarter, the company said on Thursday, standing at 5.39 billion yuan versus 3.47 billion yuan a year earlier. China Life said it recorded a gain of 841 million yuan on its financial assets in the quarter, compared to a 5.5 billion yuan loss a year earlier.
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