The South Korean stock market has finished higher now in four consecutive sessions, adding nearly 45 points or 2.7 percent en route to a fresh six-month closing high. The KOSPI is closing on resistance at 1,370 points, and now analysts say the market could tip higher still on Friday thanks to positive GDP data that was released ahead of the bell.
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 KOSPI finished moderately higher on Thursday, supported by the technology stocks, automobile producers and shipbuilding issues - although the gains were tempered by weakness among the financials.
For the day, the index jumped 12.78 points or 0.94 percent to close at 1,368.80 after trading between 1,353.16 and 1,371.95. Volume was 736.48 million shares worth 8.74 trillion won, with gainers outnumbering decliners 420 to 394.
Among the gainers, Hyundai Motor was up 3.18 percent, while Kia Motors advanced 5.42 percent, Ssangyong Motor rallied 5.56 percent, Daewoo Shipbuilding rose 2.53 percent, Hyundai Heavy gained 3.29 percent, Samsung Electronics added 2.96 percent, Korean Air Line advanced 1.45 percent, LG Display was up 1.79 percent and LG Electronics closed up 0.91 percent.
Bucking the trend, Samsung Heavy Industries was down 0.16 percent, while Hynix Semiconductor tumbled 4.80 percent, Korea Exchange Bank shed 3.28 percent, Woori Finance fell 3.04 percent and KB Financial closed down 0.79 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, the South Korean economy unexpected expanded by 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the previous three months, the central bank said on Friday in an advanced reading, possibly averting a technical recession. Analysts had been expecting a 0.8 percent quarterly decline following the 5.6 percent fall in the previous three months. On an annual basis, gross domestic product fell 4.3 percent versus forecasts for a 4.6 percent decline after the 3.4 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008.
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