The Taiwan stock market added just a handful of points, but that was enough to extend the market's winning streak to five sessions - helping the market to collect more than 430 points or 8 percent in that span. The Taipei Stock Exchange fell just shy of closing above the 5,400-point plateau - but now analysts are predicting a correction to the downside on Monday.
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 TSE finished barely higher on Friday, as gains among the paper, financial, construction and textile sectors were offset by weakness among the food, cement and plastic stocks.
For the day, the index added 4.14 points or 0.08 percent to close at 5,390.70 after trading between 5,367.99 and 5,468.49. Volume was 7.30 billion shares worth 142.58 billion Taiwan dollars. Gainers led losers by 1,117 to 859 with 132 stocks unchanged.
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, Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development said on Friday that business cyclical indicators showed a continuous slowdown in economic conditions. The composite leading index stood at 84.8 in February, down 0.5 percent from the previous month. Its annualized six-month rate of change rose 1.8 point to minus 22.5 percent, following fifteenth consecutive monthly declines.
Meanwhile, the coincident index dropped 3.6 percent to 76.1 in February and its trend adjusted index dropped 3.7 percent to 73.5. The decline was mainly driven by negative cyclical movements in electric power consumption, real customs-cleared exports and non agricultural employment.
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