The Korean stock market is trading in a very tight range today, with stocks exhibiting a mixed trend. The benchmark KOSPI is trading at 1,367, down 2.12 points from its previous close. Earlier, after an early advance to 1,376, the index had drifted down to 1,361.
Samsung Electronics, the world's top maker of memory chips and LCD screens, reported on Friday better-than-expected profit, as strong sales of its mobile phones offset another weak quarter for chips and LCD screens. The outlook is cautiously positive as the battered memory chip sector shows signs of emerging from a severe downturn with big production cuts helping ease a glut of chips. Samsung vowed to outperform the market in semiconductors and handsets in the near-term. However, the Samsung Electronics stock is trading with a sharp loss of 2.4% now.
Shipbuilders Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding are trading higher by 4% and 1.5% respectively. Samsung Heavy Industries is down with a small loss.
Among auto stocks, Kia Motors and Ssangyong Motor are up with modest gains, while Hyundai Motor is trading 1.2% down. Tech stock Hynix Semiconductor is up 1.3%. LG Display LCD is trading lower by 1.2% and LG Electronics is down with a loss of 2.7%. Telecom stock KT Corp is up 2.3%.
Steel stocks are trading weak. Oil issues SK Holdings and S-Oil are trading flat. Energy stock KEPCO is down by around half a per cent. Among airliners, Korean Airline is down 2.1% while Asiana is trading up by over 1 per cent.
Among key bank stocks, Korean Exchange Bank is up marginally. Woori Finance and KB Financials are down with small losses while Shinhan Financial is down 1.2%.
Among the other markets in Asia-Pacific region, the New Zealand, Chinese and Taiwanese markets are trading positive. Markets in Australia, Japan and Singapore are trading weak.
Most markets in the Asia-Pacific region had closed on a firm note after some initial weakness on Thursday. The Korean market had extended its gains for the fourth session in a row as improved earnings outlook and hopes that government measures will spur demand buoyed sentiment. The benchmark KOSPI had gained 13 points or 0.94% to 1,369.
On Thursday, stocks were seen struggling for support for a major part of the session on Wall Street due to weak economic reports and mixed corporate news. After moving in a listless manner for a considerable length of time, stocks managed to edge higher during the last few minutes with financials leading the charge ahead of the Treasury's announcement regarding measures for bank stress tests. The Dow ended 71 points up at 7957. The Nasdaq closed 6 points up and S&P 500 advanced nearly a per cent or 8 points.
Crude oil moved higher again on Thursday in U.S. trading and challenged the key $50 per barrel mark. A weaker dollar outweighed discouraging economic news and another rise in weekly inventories. Light sweet crude oil for June delivery finished at $49.62, up 77 cents on the session. Prices rallied as high as $49.92 in the early-going.
In economic news, weekly job claims rose and the figure was in-line with expectations. Jobless claims rose to 640,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 613,000. Continuing claims climbed to a record high of 6.14 million.
Existing home sales for March fell 3.0% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 4.57 million. Annualized home sales for March were expected to total 4.65 million units. At the current sales pace, the supply of unsold homes increased to 9.8 months from 9.7 months.
On the corporate front, Apple reported net income for the second quarter of $1.33 per share, compared to $1.16 per share for the year-ago quarter. 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.
After the U.S. markets closed Thursday, Microsoft said its third quarter profit fell 32% from last year, hurt by weakness in the global PC market as well as $710 million in charges related to job cuts and investment write-downs. The world's largest software company reported net income for the third quarter of $2.98 billion or $0.33 per share, compared to $4.39 billion or $0.47 per share for the year-ago quarter.
Online retailer Amazon.com, Inc. said Thursday after the markets closed that its first quarter earnings rose 24% from last year, on better than expected sales from the Kindle electronic bookreader introduced during the spring season. The company reported net income for the first quarter of $177 million or $0.41 per share, compared to $143 million or $0.34 per share for the year-ago quarter.
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.
Additionally, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo unveiled information Thursday, showing that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department put significant pressure on Bank of America (BAC) to go through with its merger with Merrill Lynch.
Ford Motor and Xerox Corp will announce results on Friday. In economic news, durables goods orders data and new home sales data will be released.
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