The Singapore stock market has been stuck in range trading all week, generally finishing around 1,850 points since ending the four-day winning streak in which it collected more than 120 points or 6.5 percent en route to a fresh eight-month high. The Straits Times Index remains just below resistance at 1,860 points, and now analysts suggest that the market may move higher for a second straight day on Friday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a touch of upside, thanks to some inconsistent corporate news and disappointing economic reports. The European markets all finished solidly in the red, while the U.S. bourses ended modestly higher. The Asian markets have seen choppy and volatile trade all week, and they are predicted to end the week in the same fashion - perhaps slightly to the upside.
The STI finished modestly higher on Thursday, thanks to bargain hunting following losses from the previous session. Palm oil producers were the big winners, while the gains were tempered by weakness from the property stocks.
For the day, the index was up 16.57 points or 0.9 percent to close at 1859.98 after trading between 1,836.59 and 1,862.18. Volume was 1.6 billion shares, with gainers outnumbering decliners 251 to 198.
Among the actives, Wilmar International rose 5.3 percent, while Indofood surged 11 percent, Golden Agri was up 4.1 percent and CapitaLand closed down 1.9 percent.
The lead from Wall Street is fairly optimistic as stocks ultimately ended Thursday's trading session mostly higher after showing considerable uncertainty in the earlier portion of the trading day on weak economic data.
In economic news, a report released by the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits climbed roughly in line with economist estimates in the week ended April 18. Jobless claims rose to 640,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 613,000. At the same time, the Labor Department said that continuing claims in the week ended April 11th rose to another new record high of 6.14 million from the preceding week's revised level of 6.04 million.
Additionally, the National Association of Realtors released its report on existing home sales in the month of March, showing that the annual rate of sales fell 3.0 percent to 4.57 million. Economists had expected existing home sales to slip to a 4.65 million unit rate.
On the corporate front, Apple (AAPL) reported net income for the second quarter of $1.33 per share, compared to $1.16 per share for the year-ago quarter. Revenue for the second quarter rose to $8.16 billion from $7.51 billion in the prior year quarter. Analysts' consensus estimates had called for Apple to earn $1.09 per share on revenue of $7.96 billion for the second quarter. The better than expected results were primarily due to strong iPhone sales.
Meanwhile, UPS (UPS) reported adjusted first quarter earnings of $0.52 per share, down from $0.87 per share last year and $0.04 below analyst estimates. Revenue also failed to meet analysts' target, falling nearly 14 percent to $10.94 billion.
In other news, President Obama said he would push for a law to provide strong and reliable protections for the millions of Americans who have credit cards after meeting with chief executives of the credit-card lending industry. Obama said he wants legislation that will prevent consumers from facing a sudden, surprising rise in fees, and that companies must make it easier for people to do comparison shopping.
The major averages all moved higher going into the close after bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line for much of the session. The Dow closed up 70.49 points or 0.9 percent at 7,957.06, the NASDAQ closed up 6.09 points or 0.4 percent at 1,652.21 and the S&P 500 closed up 8.37 points or 1.0 percent at 851.92.
In economic news, Singapore will on Friday announce industrial production figures for March. Forecasts call for a 24 percent annual decline after the 22.4 percent fall on year in February. On month, output is called lower by 0.3 percent after the 2.5 percent contraction in the previous month.
Also, Singapore's Department of Statistics said on Thursday that the consumer price index rose 1.6 percent year-on-year in March, slower than the 1.9 percent acceleration in the preceding month. The increase matched economists' expectations and marked the sixth consecutive month that inflation has eased. Month-on-month, consumer prices fell 0.4 percent in March following a 0.5 percent drop in the previous month.
Finally, the Singapore Tourism Board said on Thursday that the visitor arrivals dropped 13.2 percent year-on-year to 790,000 in March, compared with a 15.2 percent fall in the previous month. Visitor days declined 11 percent on an annual basis to 3 million in March, after falling 11.6 percent in February. In March, hotel room revenue decreased 33.3 percent annually to S$125 million.
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