RTTNews - The Singapore stock market has finished higher now in two of three sessions following the four-day slide that had cost it more than 130 points or 5 percent. The Straits Times Index finished above the 2,610-point plateau, and now analysts predict that the market will extend those gains when it kicks off trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is fairly optimistic as unremarkable economic data out of the U.S. was more than offset by positive GDP readings from France and Germany, marking the end of the recession in both countries. Commodities and financials are forecast to lead the gains, while steel stocks also are tipped to rise. European and U.S. markets finished modestly higher, and the Asian bourses also are expected to move to the upside.

The STI finished sharply higher on Thursday, boosted by solid gains among the financials, plantations and property stocks.

For the day, the index jumped 42.87 points or 1.67 percent to close at 2,614.18 after trading between 2,603.05 and 2,632.58.

Among the gainers, City Developments added 1.9 percent, Wilmar International surged 7 percent, Golden Agri-Resources jumped 7.4 percent and Indofood Agri Resources was up 5.6 percent, while DBS Group and United Overseas Bank also finished higher. Singapore Telecom was unchanged, while Singapore Airlines ended slightly lower.

The lead from Wall Street is modestly positive as stocks were able to post modest gains on Thursday, even as a slew of largely disappointing economic reports contributing to some uncertainty in the markets. The major averages saw choppy trading over the course of the day, but late buying interest helped stocks to finish on the upside for the second straight session.

Traders were presented with a number of economic reports on the day, with first-time claims for unemployment benefits showing a modest increase in the week ended August 8th, according to the Labor Department. The headline figure surprised economists, who had expected a modest decrease. Nonetheless, jobless claims remain well off the peaks seen during the spring months. The jobs report showed that initial jobless claims edged up to 558,000 from the previous week's revised figured of 554,000. Economists had been expecting claims to slip to 545,000 from the 550,000 originally reported for the previous week.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.1 percent in July. This followed a revised 0.8 percent increase in the previous month. The figure surprised economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.8 percent. Additional data from the Commerce Department revealed that business inventories fell by more than expected in the month of June, although the report also showed a notable increase in business sales during the month.

Stocks saw some upside following the results of the Treasury Department's $15 billion sale of thirty-year bonds. The sale drew a high yield of 4.541 percent and attracted strong demand, with the bid-to-cover ratio coming in at 2.54. The bid-to-cover ratio is a measure of demand that indicates the amount of bids for each dollar worth of securities being sold.

The auction completed the Treasury's $75 billion in security offerings this week, designed to refund approximately $60.9 billion of privately held securities maturing on August 15, 2009 and to raise approximately $14.1 billion for government expenditures.

The major averages saw a steady upward move in late-session dealing, closing near their best levels of the day. The Dow finished up by 36.58 points or 0.4 percent at 9,398.19, the NASDAQ climbed by 10.63 points or 0.5 percent to 2,009.35 and the S&P 500 rose by 6.92 points or 0.7 percent to 1,012.73.

In corporate news, Singapore Telecommunications reported its first quarter net profit attributable to shareholders of S$945 million, up 7.7 percent from S$878 billion in the previous year quarter. Underlying net profit for the quarter was S$945 million or 5.94 Singapore cents, compared to S$857 million or 5.39 Singapore cents in the prior year quarter. Group revenue for the quarter rose 1.9 percent to S$3.85 billion from S$3.78 billion in the same period last year.

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