RTTNews - The Hong Kong stock market has alternated between positive and negative finishes since ending the modest two-day winning streak in which it had collected more than 450 points or 1.8 percent. The Hang Seng Index closed above the 20,300-point support plateau, and now investors are anticipating continued gains when the market kicks off trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is broadly optimistic as the markets are expected to extend the gains that were nearly region-wide a day earlier. Financials and properties are predicted to continue their recovery from the savage selloff earlier in the week. The European and U.S. markets finished solidly higher, and the Asian markets are expected to track those gains.

The Hang Seng finished sharply higher on Thursday, mirroring the recovering in mainland China following steep losses by both markets in the previous session. Property stocks posted major gains, while the financials, energy stocks and utilities also ended well to the upside.

For the day, the index jumped 374.63 points or 1.88 percent to finish at 20,328.86 after trading between 20,196.33 and 20,465.22 on turnover of 57.23 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the gainers, HSBC Holdings added 1.72 percent, while HKEx climbed 1.97 percent, Cheung Kong surged 4.15 percent, SHK Properties gained 3.89 percent, Henderson Land was up 1.62 percent, Bank of China added 2.99 percent, China Construction Bank collected 1.03 percent, Ping An Insurance rose 1.81 percent, PetroChina gained 2.72 percent, CNOOC climbed 3.19 percent, Sinopec gathered 3.45 percent and China Shenhua was up 2.9 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is firmly positive as stocks saw strong gains on Thursday, helped by some upbeat news from the manufacturing sector that helped to offset a disappointing jobs report. The major averages all finished in positive territory by solid margins, extending their gains for a third straight session.

Some buying interest was generated by the release of a report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve saying that manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region showed some signs of stabilization. The Philly Fed said its index of current activity rose to 4.2 in August from a negative 7.5 in July, with a positive reading indicating growth in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a negative 2.0. With the bigger than expected increase, the index rose above zero for the first time since September of 2008 and reached its highest level since November of 2007.

Separately, research group the Conference Board said that its leading economic indicators index increased for the fourth consecutive month in July, signifying a likely improvement in economic conditions in the near term. The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent in July following a 0.7 percent increase in June.

Earlier, the Labor Department released a report showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased to 576,000 in the week ended August 15 from the previous week's revised figure of 561,000. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 550,000 from the 558,000 originally reported for the previous week. Despite the recent concerns regarding the battered labor market, the disappointing data saw little reaction.

On the earnings front, traders also digested quarterly results from Sears Holdings (SHLD), NetApp (NTAP), PetSmart (PETM), Rio Tinto Group (RTP) and Heinz (HNZ), among others.

The major averages reached new highs for the session in the final hour of trading, but they gave back some ground going into the close. The Dow closed up by 70.89 points or 0.8 percent at 9,350.05, the NASDAQ climbed by 19.98 points or 1 percent to 1,989.22 and the S&P 500 rose by 10.91 points or 1.1 percent to 1,007.37.

In economic news, Hong Kong's overall consumer prices dropped 1.5 percent year-on-year in July, faster than a 0.9 percent fall in the preceding month, the Census and Statistics Department said on Thursday. The fall came in line with economists' expectations. This was the second consecutive month that consumer prices fell.

The year-on-year rates of change reflects various government one-off relief measures, in particular the implementation of electricity charge subsidy. Netting the government's one-off measures, core consumer prices fell 0.3 percent in July after rising 0.4 percent in the preceding month. In the May to July period, consumer prices fell 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.
Also, China posted a current account surplus of $130 billion in the first half of 2009, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said on Thursday, down 32 percent on year. In the first half of 2008, China saw a current account surplus of $191.72 billion.
China posted an $18.64 billion deficit in its trade of services for the first half, as well as an $18.33 billion surplus in the trade of goods. The capital and financial account surplus came in at $33.1 billion, the data showed, down an annual 54 percent.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com