The Hong Kong stock market has stretched its winning streak to three sessions, collecting nearly 1,200 points or 9 percent in the process. The Hang Seng Index cracked resistance at 15,600 points, and now analysts are predicting that the market could add modestly to those totals at the opening of trade on Thursday - although potentially disappointing Chinese data could weigh.
China's National Bureau of Statistics will announce Q1 GDP, as well as March numbers for inflation, PPI, industrial production, retail sales and urban fixed asset investment.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a touch of upside, in spite of some contradictory economic and corporate data. A proposal from U.S. President Barack Obama to overhaul the tax system gave the markets a lift, helping Wall Street to finish in positive territory. The European bourses ended mostly weaker, and the Asian markets are expected to stay close to the unchanged line.
The Hang Seng finished modestly higher on Wednesday after a weak opening. Resource stocks and china-related stocks advanced, while the financials ended mixed.
For the day, the index jumped 89.46 points or 0.57 percent to close at 15,669.62 after trading between 15,213.39 and 15,669.85 on turnover of 66.26 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the gainers, Bank of Communications was up 0.47 percent, while BOC Hong Kong gained 1.70 percent, Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) rose 7.18 percent, PetroChina advanced 2.19 percent, CNOOC gained 3.30 percent, China Unicom advanced 6.44 percent, China Mobile gained 4.80 percent, China Resources soared 8.99 percent and China Shenhua added 3.61 percent.
Finishing lower, Li & Fung fell 10 percent, while HSBC Holdings lost 1.17 percent and Bank of China fell 1.02 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is optimistic as stocks moved sharply higher at the close of trading on Wednesday after showing a lack of direction throughout much of the session. The major averages all closed in positive territory after turning in a mixed performance for most of the day. The choppy trading seen for most of the day came as traders digested a slew of economic reports as well as earnings news from some big-name companies.
On the economic front, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report showed that overall economic activity has contracted further or remained weak, although it said five of the twelve Fed districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline. The Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in each of the twelve Fed districts, also noted that several districts saw signs that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level.
Earlier in the day, the Labor Department said its consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in March following a 0.4 percent increase the month before. The decline came as a surprise to economists, who had expected prices to edge up 0.1 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent for the third consecutive month. Economists had been expecting a 0.1 percent increase in core prices.
Separately, the Fed's industrial production report showed that production fell 1.5 percent in March, while capacity utilization dropped to 69.3 percent. Economists expected industrial production to decline 0.9 percent in March, while capacity utilization was expected to come in at 69.6 percent.
In corporate news, semiconductor giant Intel (INTC) reported first quarter earnings of $0.11 per share on revenues of $7.1 billion. While the results were down year-over-year, they exceeded analyst estimates of earnings of $0.03 per share on revenues of $6.98 billion. However, Intel disappointed investors by saying that was not providing a revenue outlook for the second quarter at this time due to economic uncertainty and limited visibility. Subsequently, shares of the semiconductor giant closed down 2.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) announced an increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.44 per share from $0.40 per share on its common stock. The news drove the stock up 3.2 percent.
In other news, President Obama pledged to reform the tax system Wednesday, calling for a simpler tax system that is fair to the middle-class. Speaking on the day that income taxes are due, the president focused on middle class families facing difficult decisions in the recession, and pledged to restructure the tax system.
While the major averages all closed above the unchanged line, the tech-heavy NASDAQ underperformed the Dow and the S&P 500 by a wide margin. The NASDAQ ended the session up 1.08 points or 0.1 percent at 1,626.80, while the Dow jumped 109.44 points or 1.4 percent to 8,029.62 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.56 points or 1.3 percent at 852.06.
In economic news, China's Ministry of Commerce said on Wednesday that foreign direct investments into China decreased for the sixth month in a row in March. FDI decreased 9.5 percent year-on-year in March to US$8.4 billion. However, the decline in March was slower than the 15.8 percent drop in February.
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