RTTNews - The Singapore stock market has finished lower now in three straight sessions, giving away more than 80 points or 3.1 percent along the way. The Straits Times Index continues to cling to the 2,600-point plateau - and now ahead of Monday's market holiday for National Day, analysts are predicting that it could slide through that level of support at the opening of trade on Friday as investors consolidate their positions.

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 STI finished slightly lower on Thursday, as investors continued to lock in gains from last week's winning streak. Financials and properties were mixed, while commodities and industrial saw a mild increase.

For the day, the index eased 5.33 points or 0.2 percent to close at 2,601.50 after trading between 2,590.64 and 2,626.84. Volume was 2.42 billion shares, with 368 gainers and 166 decliners.

Among the gainers, Wilmar International gained 3.0 percent, while Golden Agri Resources rose 1.2 percent, Cosco added 2.3 percent and City Development gained 0.2 percent.

Finishing lower, CapitaLand was down 0.3 percent, DBS eased 0.7 percent, UOB lost 1.7 percent, SembCorp Marine shed 1.8 percent and Keppel Corp fell 1.1 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.

In economic news, Singapore on Friday is set to announce FX reserves data for July, with forecasts anticipating a surplus of $175.3 billion following the $173.19 billion surplus in June.

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