RTTNews - The Malaysian stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions, collecting more than 18 points or 1.5 percent along the way. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index closed above the 1,150-point plateau, and now analysts are predicting additional upside for the market when it kicks off trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is firmly optimistic, with modest gains predicted for the housing and property sectors. Continued good news on the corporate earnings front is expected to add to the positive sentiment, along with solid economic data out of the United States. The European and U.S. markets finished with significant gains, and the Asian markets are also predicted to open higher.

The KLCI finished slightly higher on Thursday, as the financial stocks, plantations and industrial issues all finished the session with modest gains.

For the day, the index was up 3.45 points or 0.30 percent to close at 1,152.15 after trading between 1,142.93 and 1,157.72. Volume was 1.035 billion shares worth 1.432 billion ringgit. There were 452 gainers and 176 decliners, with 217 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, KNM, Lion Corp, Damansara Realty, Iris Corp, Sime Darby and Telekom all finished higher, while Maybank was unchanged and Tenaga finished slightly lower.

The lead from Wall Street is broadly positive as stocks staged a substantial rally following an encouraging report on existing home sales after a modest upward move at the opening bell on Thursday. The major averages all closed in positive territory by substantial margins, with the NASDAQ able to extend its winning streak for the twelfth straight session.

Earlier, buying interest was generated by data from the National Association of Realtors that showed that existing home sales increased for the third consecutive month in June. Existing home sales rose by 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.89 million units in June from a downwardly revised rate of 4.72 million in May. Economists had expected sales to rise to a 4.84 million unit rate from the 4.77 million unit rate originally reported for the previous month.

Although a separate report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims rose in June, the figure rose by slightly less than economists had expected. First-time claims in the week ended July 18th rose to 554,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 524,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to increase to 557,000 from the 522,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Traders also delved into a series of earnings reports, with 3M (MMM), Ford (F) and Wyeth (WYE) reporting results that surpassed Wall Street estimates. McDonald's (MCD), AT&T (T), Qualcomm (QCOM) also beat forecasts, although by more modest margins.

The major averages gave back some ground going into the close, although they held onto standout gains. The Dow closed up by 188.03 points or 2.1 percent at 9,069.29, the NASDAQ advanced by 47.22 points or 2.5 percent to 1.973.60 and the S&P 500 rose by 22.22 points or 2.3 percent to 976.29.

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