RTTNews - The Hong Kong stock market on Thursday snapped the two-day losing streak that had cost it more than 310 points or 1.5 percent in coming down from a 12-month closing high. The Hang Seng Index ended just below the 20,900-point plateau, but now analysts are looking for renewed pressure to the downside at the opening of trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is cautious as many of the regional bourses are likely waiting on Friday's U.S. non-farm payroll data. Technology and steel stocks are expected to see some mild easing, along with the airlines and healthcare sectors. Modest support is predicted from retail stocks. European stocks finished slightly higher, while the U.S. markets ended firmly in the red - and the Asian markets are also projected to open lower.

The Hang Seng finished sharply higher on Thursday, surging in the afternoon after a weak start in the morning. Retailers and financials led the gainers, while property stocks and oil stocks also finished significantly higher.

For the day, the index surged 404.47 points or 1.97 percent to close at 20,899.24 after trading between 20,339.87 and 20, 904.93 on turnover of 88.45 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the gainers, China Mobile jumped 7.47 percent, while China Unicom added 7.87 percent, HSBC Holdings gained 3.34 percent, Cheung Kong was up 2.17 percent, SHK Properties climbed 0.35 percent, PetroChina added 2.96 percent, Sinopec was up 2.01 percent and CNOOC jumped 3.58 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is modestly negative as stocks surrendered early gains and posted moderate losses on Thursday, with traders doing some profit taking ahead of key employment data on tap for Friday. The major averages all finished in negative territory, further offsetting recent gains.

Initial upside in the equity markets came after a report from the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits came in lower than expected in the week ended August 1, offsetting some of the recent concerns about the outlook for the labor market. The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 550,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 588,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to edge down to 580,000 from the 584,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Nonetheless, buying interest waned not long after the open, and the major averages pulled back into negative territory. The downturn came as traders cashed in on recent gains ahead of Friday's monthly employment report.

On the earnings front, traders reacted to a mixed bag of quarterly results from Cisco Systems (CSCO), Sunoco (SUN), Comcast (CMCSA, CMCSK), News Corp. (NWS), DirecTV Group (DTV), among others, as earnings season winds to a close. During the earnings season, a majority of companies were able to beat bottom line estimates via cost cutting measures, but most fell short of revenue estimates as the recession dampened product and service demand in the calendar second quarter.

Traders also looked to a slew of monthly sales results from retailers such as Target (TGT), Walgreen Co. (WAG), BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ), JC Penney (JCP) and Saks (SKS).

The major average experienced choppy trading heading into the close, seeing little change after moving off of their worst levels of the day in mid-afternoon trading. The Dow closed down by 24.71 points or 0.3 percent at 9,256.26, the NASDAQ slipped by 19.89 points or 1 percent to 1,973.16, and the S&P 500 fell by 5.64 points or 0.6 percent to 997.08.

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