The South Korean stock market finished higher by just a handful of points on Tuesday, but that was enough to extend its winning streak to three sessions. The KOSPI has added nearly 80 points or 2.6 percent in the process while finishing above resistance at 1,340 points - but now the market is expected to see a mild retreat on Wednesday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is broadly negative after several sessions of gain. Some weak economic data out of the United States adds to the negative sentiment, although it is tempered by positive earnings news. The European markets all ended higher following Monday's holiday, while the U.S. markets ended significantly lower - and the Asian bourses are tipped to follow the latter lead.

The KOSPI finished slightly higher on Tuesday, thanks to mild gains among the financials, technology stocks and industrial issues. For the day, the index added 4.37 points or 0.33 percent to close at 1,342.63 after trading between 1,323.64 and 1,356.31.

Among the gainers, KB Financial Group gained 0.38 percent, while Woori Finance advanced 2.50 percent, Hynix Semiconductor gained 3.36 percent, LG Electronics advanced 3.26 percent, LG Display edged up 0.16 percent, Hyundai Heavy Industries gained 0.95 percent, Daewoo Shipping advanced 3.27 percent, Samsung Heavy Industries rose 2.46 percent, Hyundai Motor edged up 0.30 percent and S-Oil advanced 1.64 percent.

Finishing lower, Samsung Electronics lost 1.37 percent, while Ssangyong Motor lost 6.03 percent and SK Holdings slipped 0.69 percent.

Wall Street offers a pessimistic lead as stocks saw substantial weakness during trading on Tuesday. Traders reacted to disappointing retail sales data and largely shrugged off some optimistic comments from President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke.

Stocks showed a notable decline in early trading after a report from the Commerce Department showed that retail sales fell 1.1 percent in March following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent increase in February. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.3 percent.

Separately, the Labor Department said that its producer price index fell 1.2 percent in March compared to economist estimates of a flat reading. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, were unchanged compared to the previous month.

In corporate news, Goldman Sachs (GS) reported a first quarter profit that rose year-over-year and came in well above analyst estimates. The company also said that it has started a $5 billion public offering of its common stock, which may be used to repay TARP funds.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) also released first quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates. The company reported earnings of $1.26 per share compared to the $1.22 per share that was anticipated.

In other news, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that there have been tentative signs of a slowing in the steep economic decline, offering hope that the worst of the recession may be drawing to a close. Speaking at Atlanta's Morehouse College, Bernanke cited statistics in home sales, homebuilding, and consumer spending, with sales of new motor vehicles showing some signs of leveling out.

Bernanke's remarks reflected those of President Barack Obama, who also spoke Tuesday regarding the hopeful signs in the economy. Obama, offered hopeful remarks in a speech at Georgetown University and praised the recent actions by his administration, including the $787 billion recovery act.

The major averages all closed firmly in negative territory, although off their worst levels of the day. The Dow closed down 137.63 points or 1.7 percent at 7,920.18, the NASDAQ closed down 27.59 points or 1.7 percent at 1,625.72 and the S&P 500 closed down 17.23 points or 2.0 percent at 841.50.

In economic news, a report released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Justice revealed that the number of foreign visitors who arrived in South Korea in the first quarter rose by more than 25 percent over the same period to top 2 million.

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