RTTNews - The Singapore stock market has finished higher now in back-to-back sessions, adding nearly 20 points or 1 percent in the process. The Straits Times Index has regained support at 2,180 points, although investors are bracing for a day of steep losses when the market opens for business on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is laced with pessimism as sentiment plummeted on weaker than expected economic data out of the United States, as well as mixed corporate news. The European markets finished sharply lower, as did the U.S. markets - and the Asian markets are forecast to also move significantly lower.

The STI finished slightly higher on Wednesday, boosted by the plantations and the property stocks - although the gains were largely offset by weakness among the financials. For the day, the index was up 7.16 points or 0.33 percent to close at 2,185.29 after trading between 2,173.00 and 2,213.70.

Among the gainers, Wilmar rose 5.8 percent, Noble Group rose 1.3 percent and CapitaLand added 1.9 percent, while United Overseas Bank and Singapore Airlines also ended higher. Finishing lower, Singapore Telecommunications and DBS wound up in the red.

The lead from Wall Street is broadly negative as stocks saw substantial weakness during trading on Wednesday, as disappointing retail sales offset some of the recent optimism about the outlook for the economy. The major averages all moved sharply lower after ending the previous session mixed.

The weakness in the markets came after a report from the Commerce Department showed that retail sales unexpectedly fell for the second consecutive month in April after showing back-to-back increases in the first two months of the year. The report showed that retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April following a revised 1.3 percent decrease in March. Economists had expected sales to come in unchanged compared to the 1.2 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed a continued decrease in business inventories in the month of March. The report showed that business inventories fell 1.0 percent in March following a revised 1.4 percent decrease in February.

Meanwhile, shares of Intel (INTC) ended the day modestly lower after the European Commission fined the semiconductor giant a record 1.06 billion euros for allegedly abusing its dominant position on the market for computer chips known as x86 central processing units. Intel president and CEO, Paul Otellini said the company takes strong exception to the decision, arguing that it ignores the reality of a highly competitive microprocessor marketplace. Otellini added that Intel would appeal the decision.

On the earnings front, department store operator Macy's (M) reported a first quarter adjusted loss that came in narrower than analysts had been expecting. Nonetheless, shares of Macy's fell 6.7 percent, as the weak sales data weight on the retail sector.

In other news, American International Group CEO Edward Liddy appeared before lawmakers, attempting to defend the steps the beleaguered insurer has taken to reduce the risks it poses to the financial system.

The major averages all closed firmly negative, with the NASDAQ ending the session at its worst level of the day. The Dow fell 184.22 points or 2.2 percent to 8,284.89, the NASDAQ closed down 51.73 points or 3 percent at 1,664.19 and the S&P 500 fell 24.43 points or 2.7 percent to 883.92.

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