The Thai stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions after ending lower in consecutive trading days. The Stock Exchange of Thailand regained support at 440 points, although analysts say the market likely will not be able to maintain that level in Monday's trade.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is fairly pessimistic, thanks to downbeat economic data out of the United States and a firmly negative lead from the European and American stock markets. Automobile stocks may be in focus on Monday after reports that Rick Wagoner will step down as General Motors Chairman and CEO in order to secure continued government aid for the embattled American auto maker.

The SET finished slightly higher on Friday, thanks to strength among the financials and a mixed performance from the energy stocks. For the day, the index added 1.41 points or 0.32 percent to close at 440.81 after trading between 438.70 and 441.92. Volume was 1.28 billion shares worth 6.128 billion baht.

Among the actives, energy giant PTT was down 0.62 percent, while subsidiary PTT Exploration and Production added 0.50 percent, coal producer Banpu was up 0.90 percent, Siam Commercial Bank gained 1 percent, Kasikornbank climbed 1.09 percent, Delta Electronics was up 1.1 percent and Hana Microelectronics was 1.02 percent higher.

The lead from Wall Street is decidedly negative as investors cashed in on some of the recent gains, causing weakness to prevail throughout Friday's trading session. Some of the weakness came as investors digested mixed economic news and kept a close eye on a meeting between President Obama and the CEOs of the nation's biggest banks.

The White House has confirmed that Wagoner will step down from his posts at GM, which has posted losses of $82 billion in the past four years and almost ran out of capital towards the end of 2008 before it received an emergency loan from the government. GM has since said that additional funding from the government would be required to continue operations and the Obama administration confirmed on Sunday that an additional loan may be provided - but Wagoner's resignation was a condition of the agreement.

In economic news, the Commerce Department released its report on personal income and spending in February, showing that spending increased for the second consecutive month. Personal spending rose 0.2 percent in February following an upwardly revised 1.0 percent increase in January. The increase was in line with the expectations of economists. Also, personal income edged down 0.2 in February after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Economists had been expecting a slightly more modest 0.1 percent decrease.

The final reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for March was also released, showing a revised reading of 57.3. Economists had expected the consumer sentiment index to be lifted to 56.8 from the mid-month reading of 56.6.

Meanwhile, President Obama met with the CEOs of the country's biggest banks to discuss the economy and proposals to increase regulation of the financial system. The meeting came only days after the Obama administration revealed details on how they plan to improve the balance sheets of banks. At the close of the roundtable discussion, some of the CEOs mentioned that Obama had emphasized the need to work together to solve the financial crisis and lift the economy out of recession.

The major averages all ended the session firmly in negative territory after ending Thursday's trading at one-month closing highs. The Dow closed down 148.38 points or 1.9 percent at 7,776.18, the Nasdaq closed down 41.80 points or 2.6 percent at 1,545.20 and the S&P 500 closed down 16.92 points or 2 percent at 815.94. Despite the losses on the day, the major averages still closed higher for the third straight week due largely to the rally seen on Monday. The Dow rose 6.8 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.

In economic news, Thailand's international reserves stood at US$ 116.99 billion as on March 20, up from US$ 114.19 billion as on March 13, the Bank Of Thailand said on Friday. Foreign currency reserves increased to US$ 114.08 billion from US$ 111.36 billion, while the reserve position in the IMF widened to US$ 208.4 million from US$ 203.4 million as on March 13. Gold reserves increased to US$ 2.57 billion from US$ 2.5 billion, while SDRs rose to US$ 129 million from US$ 126 million.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com