RTTNews - The Hong Kong stock market has finished lower now in two of three trading days after the three-day winning streak that saw it put on nearly 2,000 points or 11 percent on its way to an eight-month closing high. The Hang Seng Index is clinging to support at the 18,500-point plateau, and now investors are predicting that the market will build on that level at the opening of trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is positive following U.S. President Barack Obama's historic speech in Egypt aimed at mending ties with the Muslim world. Some better than expected economic data out of the U.S. adds to the positive sentiment. The European markets finished mixed with a touch of upside, while the U.S. markets ended firmly in positive territory - and the Asian markets are forecast to move higher as well.

The Hang Seng finished modestly lower on Thursday, dragged to the downside by losses among the automobile producers, gold miners, properties and other mainland China shares.

For the day, the index eased 73.70 points or 0.4 percent to close at 18,502.77 after trading between 18,108.80 and 18,522.39 on turnover of 83.04 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the decliners, SOHO China fell 1.98 percent, while Sun Hung Kai Properties shed 1.39 percent, Cheung Kong (Holdings) eased 1.20 percent, Hopson Development dropped 9.40 percent, Henderson Land Development sank 3.26 percent, Agile Property Holdings dropped 4.58 percent, Zijin Mining Group lost 1.78 percent, Zhaojin Mining fell 2.33 percent, Lingbao Gold was down 3.79 percent, Bank of China was down 0.86 percent, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China decreased 2.42 percent, China Construction Bank eased 0.38 percent, China Merchants Bank fell 1.32 percent and China CITIC Bank was down 4.00 percent.

Finishing higher, HSBC Holdings added 0.44 percent, while Cardlink Technology Group surged 15 percent, Bank of Communications added 0.94 percent and Hang Seng Bank gained 2.99 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is optimistic as stocks resumed their upward move on Thursday following a modest pullback in the previous session. The major averages firmed their position in positive territory in mid-afternoon trading after an uncertain start to the day's session, posting strong gains on the day.

Ahead of the start of trading, traders were presented with employment data from the Labor Department that showed a decrease in first time jobless claims for the week ended May 30. The report also indicated the first decrease in continuing claims in 20 weeks as initial jobless claims fell to 621,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 625,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to edge down to 620,000 from the 623,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Continuing claims fell to 6.735 million in the week ended May 23 from the preceding week's revised level of 6.750 million. The modest decrease in continuing claims breaks a recent streak of record highs and marks the first decrease since the week ended January 3.

In a separate report, the Labor Department revised its labor productivity figures for the first quarter, revealing a mild increase in the pace of growth. The report also showed that unit labor costs increased by less than previously estimated.

On the corporate front, membership warehouse operator Costco Wholesale (COST) reported a 7 percent drop in its comparable sales for the four-week period ended May 31 with a 5 percent decline in net sales. A number of other retailers also reported their monthly sales results, with Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), J.C. Penney (JCP), Bon-Ton (BONT) and American Apparel (APP) all reporting declining sales on a comparable store basis.

Retail giant Wal-Mart (WMT) did not release its monthly sales results, however, as the company announced last month that it would cease providing its monthly results.

The upward move seen over the course of the trading day came as traders shrugged off some uncertainty ahead of Friday's report from the Labor Department detailing the employment situation for the month of May.

The major averages saw further upside in late session trading and closed just off of their best levels of the day. The Dow climbed 74.96 points or 0.9 percent to 8,750.24, the NASDAQ finished up 24.10 points or 1.3 percent at 1,850.02 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.70 points or 1.1 percent at 942.46.

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