RTTNews - The Singapore stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions, jumping more than 80 points or 3.2 percent on its way to a 10-month closing high. The Straits Times Index finished above the 2,500-point plateau, and now investors are expecting the market to trade in that vicinity again at the opening of trade on Monday, ticking perhaps slightly higher.

The global forecast for the Asian markets provide little guidance as expected declines among the financials and technology sectors could be offset by gains among health care and pharmaceutical stocks. The markets in Europe and the United States finished mixed on Friday, but not too far from the unchanged line one way or the other. The Asian bourses could open to the upside once again, although a mild downside correction could take hold later in the day for many of the markets that are riding significant winning streaks.

The STI finished sharply higher on Friday, thanks to solid gains among the financials. Energy stocks also ended higher, while the property sector finished mostly to the upside.

For the day, the index surged 48.53 points or 1.95 percent to close at 2,533.43 after trading between 2,503.38 and 2,533.43. Volume was 2.44 billion shares worth 2.13 billion Singapore dollars. There were 435 gainers and 131 decliners, with 770 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, SGX, DBS, Overseas China Banking Corp and Keppel Corp all finished higher, while City Developments ended with slight losses.

The lead from Wall Street is mixed as stocks were able to regain some ground but still finished Friday's session on a mixed note after discouraging news from Microsoft (MSFT) prompted a lower open. The Dow and the S&P 500 were able to eke out modest gains, while the NASDAQ snapped a 12-day wining streak.

Earlier selling pressure was generated by disappointing earnings from Microsoft, which reported weaker than expected quarterly sales, while American Express (AXP), Amazon.com (AMZN), Black & Decker (BDK), Schlumberger (SLB) and others offered a mixed bag of results.

Traders largely shrugged off a mixed report from Reuters and the University of Michigan, which showed that their reading on consumer sentiment for the month of July was upwardly revised from the preliminary reading but still came in well below the previous month. The report said that the consumer sentiment index for July came in at 66.0 compared to the preliminary reading of 64.6, although it remained below a reading of 70.8 for June. Economists had expected the index to be revised up to 65.0.

Meanwhile, some traders looked to Capitol Hill, where Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were among government officials testifying before the House Financial Services Committee regarding financial service regulatory reform. Notably, the Fed chief indicated that the government is winding down its unprecedented intervention in the U.S. financial system.

The major averages eventually ended the session on opposite sides of the unchanged line, with the NASDAQ stuck in the red. While the NASDAQ slipped by 7.64 points or 0.4 percent to 1,965.96, the Dow climbed 23.95 points or 0.3 percent to 9,093.24 and the S&P 500 rose by 2.97 points or 0.3 points to 979.26. Despite the mixed performance for the session, the major averages all posted strong gains for the week. The Dow rose 4 percent for the week, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 4.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

In economic news, Singapore's manufacturing output declined 9.3 percent year-on-year in June following a revised 2.1 percent increase in May, the Economic Development Board said on Friday. Production fell for the first time in three months. Economists had forecast a 6.4 percent decline for June. On a monthly basis, production fell a seasonally adjusted 9.2 percent in June compared to a revised fall of 1.8 percent in May. It was expected to fall by 6.2 percent.

Also, private home prices in Singapore fell 4.7 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said on Friday. That was less than the initial estimate of a 5.9 percent drop.

Prices fell for the fourth straight quarter, but the pace of decline eased significantly compared to a 14.1 percent decline in the first three months of the year. At the same time, rentals of private residential dropped 5.2 percent, compared with the decrease of 8.5 percent in the previous quarter.

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