The Hong Kong stock market has ended higher now in consecutive sessions, surging nearly 1,000 points or 7.5 percent ahead of Friday's Labor Day holiday. The Hang Seng Index broke through resistance at 15,500 points, and now investors are hopeful that the market could challenge the 16,000-point plateau in Monday's trade.
The Asian markets draw a fairly positive if lukewarm global forecast as many of the bourses return to action following Friday's holiday. Some economic news out of the United States was not as bad as expected, as were some corporate results. Most of Europe was closed, but for a flat performance from London's FTSE, while the U.S. bourses ended slightly higher - and the Asian markets are also expected to move higher.
The Hang Seng finished sharply higher on Thursday, powered by gains among the financial shares, property stocks, automobile producers and oil issues.
For the day, the index jumped 564.04 points or 3.77 percent to close at 15,520.99 after trading between 15,204.10 and 15,587.29 on turnover of 70.91 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the gainers, China Oilfield Service added 8.82 percent, while Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical rose 5.13 percent, Sinopec rose 4.82 percent, PetroChina jumped 3.15 percent, China Unicom gained 3.14 percent, China Telecom jumped 4.62 percent, Sun Hung Kai Properties was up 4.93 percent, Cheung Kong added 6.67 percent, Hutchison Whampoa rose 5.86 percent, Henderson Land Development rose 5.95 percent, Agile Property Holdings was up 6.36 percent, HSBC Holdings increased 6.72 percent, Fubon Bank surged 13.19 percent, Foxconn International Holdings soared 18.96 percent and CNOOC climbed 2.11 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is cautiously optimistic as stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Friday, with the major averages bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before ending the day modestly higher. The lackluster performance came as traders digested some mixed earnings and economic news.
On the economic front, the Institute for Supply Management released its report on manufacturing activity in the month of April, showing that activity continued to contract for the month but at a much slower than expected pace. The ISM said its index of activity in the sector rose to 40.1 in April from 36.3 in March, although a reading below 50 indicates a continued contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 38.4.
Separately, the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for the month of April was unexpectedly upwardly revised to a reading of 65.1 from the previously reported reading of 61.9. The Commerce Department also released its report on factory orders in the month of March, showing that orders fell by a bigger than expected 0.9 percent following a downwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in February.
In earnings news, Chevron (CVX) closed notably higher after the oil giant reported first quarter earnings that fell sharply year-over-year but came in better than analysts had expected. Shares of Chevron ended the day up 1.2 percent. Chevron reported first quarter earnings of $1.84 billion or $0.92 per share compared to $5.17 billion or $2.48 per share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had been expecting the company to report earnings of $0.81 per share.
Meanwhile, MetLife (MET) saw considerable weakness on the day after reporting a first quarter loss of $574 million or $0.71 per share compared with a profit of $615 million or $0.84 per share in the same quarter last year. Shares of MetLife closed down 7.7 percent.
The major averages showed a notable upward move going into the close, ending the day in positive territory. The Dow closed up 44.29 points or 0.5 percent at 8,212.41, the NASDAQ closed up 1.90 points or 0.1 percent at 1,719.20 and the S&P 500 closed up 4.71 points or 0.5 percent at 877.52. With the gains on Friday, the major averages all closed higher for the week, with the NASDAQ setting a nearly six-month closing high. While the NASDAQ rose 1.5 percent for the week, the Dow and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
In economic news, Hong Kong is scheduled to announce retail sales numbers for March on Monday afternoon. In terms of value, analysts are expecting a contraction of 5.2 percent on year following the 12.6 percent annual fall in February. In terms of volume, forecasts call for a decline of 6.6 percent on year after the 13.8 percent fall on year in the previous month.
Also, China's Purchasing Managers' Index for the manufacturing sector increased to a seasonally adjusted 53.5 in April from 52.4 in March, the Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Friday. The index rose for the fifth consecutive month in April, and it was the second month the index remained above the threshold reading of 50. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion, while a reading below 50 signals a contraction.
In April, the output index moved up to 57.4 from 56.9 in March, while the new orders index rose to 56.6 from 54.6. The new export orders index increased to 49.1 from 47.5. The employment index also improved, rising to 50.3 in April from 48.6 in the preceding month.
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