The stock market in South Korea opened sharply higher and is trading in positive territory on Friday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended in positive territory led by financial and technology stocks on increasing confidence that the downturn in the economy has slowed down and the economy can begin a recovery sooner-than-expected.

A Commerce Department report showed that housing starts fell 10.8% to an annual rate of 510,000 in March from the revised February estimate of 572,000. Economists had expected starts to slip to 540,000 from the 583,000 originally reported for the previous month. The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to 610,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 663,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up 658,000 from the 654,000 originally reported for the previous week. However, continuing claims rose to a new record high. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its index of regional manufacturing activity rose to a negative 24.4 in April from a negative 35.0 in March. While a negative reading indicates a contraction in the sector, the index increased by much more than expected.

The Dow closed up 95.81 points or 1.2% at 8,125, the Nasdaq closed up 43.64 points or 2.7% at 1,670 and the S&P 500 closed up 13.24 points or 1.6% at 865.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $0.13 at $49.85 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery ended at $49.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $0.73 for the session, amid choppy trading.

The benchmark KOSPI Index opened Friday's session at 1,355, sharply higher than its previous close of 1,337, and is currently trading at 1,347, up 10.61 points, or 0.79%. Financials and technology stocks are leading the gains.

The local currency, the Won, opened higher against the greenback at 1325 Won per US$, up from 1,332 Won, and is currently quoted at 1,326.50 Won per US$.

Financials are trading higher. KB Financial Group is adding 0.80%, Woori Finance is edging up 0.86, but Shinhan Financial is gaining 0.51%.

Technology stocks are trading higher. Hynix Semiconductor is rising 8.30%, LG Electronics is advancing 2.87%, and LG Display is gaining 3.05%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 2.93%.In the auto space, Hyundai Motor is advancing 1.39%, and Kia Motor is gaining 1.75%, but Ssangyong Motor is declining 5.31%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is edging up 0.23%, and Daewoo Shipping is adding 0.20%, while Samsung Heavy Industries is trading unchanged from the previous close.

Oil-related stocks are advancing. S-Oil is adding 0.40% and SK Holdings is edging up 0.50%.

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