The South Korean stock market has ended lower in two of three sessions since ending the four-day winning streak in which it added nearly 80 points or 2.6 percent. The KOSPI gave up support at 1,330 points, but now investors are hopeful that the market can regain that level at the opening of trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is virtually flat. Corporate earnings are a mixed bag so far as some have come in better than expected - although more of the big financials are due to report this week and could fall under pressure. The European markets finished sharply higher and the U.S. markets ended barely in the green, and the Asian bourses are predicted to fall somewhere in between with modest gains.

The KOSPI finished modestly lower after a strong start on Friday, as the financials and ship builders ended lower on profit taking. The losses were offset slightly by gains among the technology stocks and a mixed bag from the oil companies.

For the day, the index eased 7.72 points or 0.58 percent to close at 1,329.00 after trading between 1,316.11 and 1,360.90. Volume was 783.03 million shares worth 8.1 trillion won, with decliners beating gainers 590 to 240.

Among the decliners, Shinhan Financial lost 1.88 percent, while Woori Finance fell 1.51 percent, Kia Motor decreased 1.96 percent, Ssangyong Motor lost 7.50 percent, Hyundai Heavy Industries slipped 1.40 percent, Daewoo Shipping fell 4.35 percent, Samsung Heavy Industries shed 2.68 percent, SK Holdings lost 1.16 percent and Hana Financial Group declined 2.3 percent.

Bucking the trend, Hynix Semiconductor was up 8.68 percent, while LG Electronics added 0.96 percent, LG Display gained 0.96 percent, Samsung Electronics advanced 2.75 percent, Hyundai Motor gained 1.08 percent and S-Oil gained 0.40 percent.

Wall Street offers little in the way of guidance with perhaps a touch of upside as stocks ended Friday's trading modestly higher after a relatively lackluster session with traders digesting the latest batch of earnings news. The major averages ended the day just above the unchanged line but still managed close higher for the sixth consecutive week.

Earlier in the day, General Electric (GE) released its first quarter financial results, reporting earnings from continuing operations of $0.26 per share, down from $0.43 per share in the previous year. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.21 per share.

Citigroup (C) also released its first quarter results, reporting a loss available to common shareholders that shrank significantly to $0.18 per share from $1.03 per share in the year ago quarter. Analysts expected the company to report a loss of $0.34 per share.

In other corporate news, General Motors (GM) CEO Fritz Henderson said it was more probable that the auto giant would need to seek bankruptcy protection in order to complete its restructuring process, although he noted that isn't the company's preferred option.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for April rose to 61.9, a substantial increase from the previous reading. Analysts had expected the index to rise to 58.5 from 57.3 in March.

Also, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a speech earlier in the day in which he offered his support to financial innovation, despite the fact that some of these new products have contributed to the current economic crisis. Bernanke argued that increased regulation would be a better response than eliminating innovation. The Fed chief noted that while financial innovation can misfire, more often the benefits outweigh the downside.

The major averages moved to the downside going into the close, ending the day modestly higher. The Dow closed up 5.90 points or 0.1 percent at 8,131.33, the NASDAQ closed up 2.63 points or 0.2 percent at 1,673.07 and the S&P 500 closed up 4.30 points or 0.5 percent at 869.60. Friday's modest gains helped the major averages to post their sixth straight week of gains. While the Dow rose 0.6 percent for the week, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 1.2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com