Ahead of Friday's Labor Day holiday, the China stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions following the three-day losing streak that had cost it more than 60 points or 3 percent along the way. The Shanghai Composite Index is flirting with resistance at 2,500 points, and now investors are optimistic that the market can break through on Monday.
The Asian markets draw a fairly positive if lukewarm global forecast as many of the bourses return to action following Friday's holiday. Some economic news out of the United States was not as bad as expected, as were some corporate results. Most of Europe was closed, but for a flat performance from London's FTSE, while the U.S. bourses ended slightly higher - and the Asian markets are also expected to move higher.
The SCI finished modestly higher on Thursday, lifted into the green by gains among the property stocks, machinery producers and cement shares.
For the day, the index was up 9.38 points or 0.38 percent to close at 2,477.57 after trading between 2,461.36 and 2,491.07. The Shenzhen Index rose 119.31 points or 1.27 percent to close at 9,502.52 points for a combined turnover of 194.14 billion yuan. Gainers outnumbered losers by 614 to 220 in Shanghai and 526 to177 in Shenzhen.
Among the gainers, Guangdong Taipei Group, Xuzhou Construction Machinery Science and Technology, Guangxi Liugong Machinery, Shanghai Shentong Metro and Shanghai Industrial Development all rose by the daily limit of 10 percent, while Anhui Conch Cement rose 8.5 percent, Huaxin Cement ended 5.8 percent higher, Sany Heavy Industry added 5.8 percent, China Vanke gained 2.17 percent, Poly Real Estate Group surged 8.3 percent, Tangshan Jidong Cement Company rose 7.25 percent and Gemdale Corp. gained 9.8 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is cautiously optimistic as stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Friday, with the major averages bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before ending the day modestly higher. The lackluster performance came as traders digested some mixed earnings and economic news.
On the economic front, the Institute for Supply Management released its report on manufacturing activity in the month of April, showing that activity continued to contract for the month but at a much slower than expected pace. The ISM said its index of activity in the sector rose to 40.1 in April from 36.3 in March, although a reading below 50 indicates a continued contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 38.4.
Separately, the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for the month of April was unexpectedly upwardly revised to a reading of 65.1 from the previously reported reading of 61.9. The Commerce Department also released its report on factory orders in the month of March, showing that orders fell by a bigger than expected 0.9 percent following a downwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in February.
In earnings news, Chevron (CVX) closed notably higher after the oil giant reported first quarter earnings that fell sharply year-over-year but came in better than analysts had expected. Shares of Chevron ended the day up 1.2 percent. Chevron reported first quarter earnings of $1.84 billion or $0.92 per share compared to $5.17 billion or $2.48 per share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had been expecting the company to report earnings of $0.81 per share.
Meanwhile, MetLife (MET) saw considerable weakness on the day after reporting a first quarter loss of $574 million or $0.71 per share compared with a profit of $615 million or $0.84 per share in the same quarter last year. Shares of MetLife closed down 7.7 percent.
The major averages showed a notable upward move going into the close, ending the day in positive territory. The Dow closed up 44.29 points or 0.5 percent at 8,212.41, the NASDAQ closed up 1.90 points or 0.1 percent at 1,719.20 and the S&P 500 closed up 4.71 points or 0.5 percent at 877.52. With the gains on Friday, the major averages all closed higher for the week, with the NASDAQ setting a nearly six-month closing high. While the NASDAQ rose 1.5 percent for the week, the Dow and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
In economic news, China's Purchasing Managers' Index for the manufacturing sector increased to a seasonally adjusted 53.5 in April from 52.4 in March, the Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Friday. The index rose for the fifth consecutive month in April, and it was the second month the index remained above the threshold reading of 50. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion, while a reading below 50 signals a contraction.
In April, the output index moved up to 57.4 from 56.9 in March, while the new orders index rose to 56.6 from 54.6. The new export orders index increased to 49.1 from 47.5. The employment index also improved, rising to 50.3 in April from 48.6 in the preceding month.
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