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Singapore Stock Market May Extend Gains

The Singapore stock market bounced back to the upside again on Friday, one session after it had ended the three-day winning streak in which it had risen almost 55 points or 1.8 percent. The Straits Times Index finished just above the 3,000-point plateau, and now investors are anticipating another firm start for the market when it opens on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed to higher on optimism that European finance ministers will approve a new bailout package for Greece later in the day. Limiting the upside are rising tensions in the Middle East as Iran has discontinued the sale of oil to any British of French companies, in response to the latest round of EU sanctions - although the price of oil is climbing as a result. The European markets were mixed on Friday and the U.S. bourses were mixed, and the Asian markets are expected to split the difference.

The STI finished modestly higher on Friday following gains from the financial shares and telecom stocks.

For the day, the index climbed 23.39 points or 0.79 percent to finish at 3,000.59 after trading between 2,984.68 and 3,010.67. Volume was 1.88 billion shares worth 1.37 billion Singapore dollars. There were 313 gainers and 117 decliners, with 348 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Singapore Telecommunications added 0.7 percent, Frasers Commercial Trust climbed 1.9 percent and Jardine Matheson spiked 4.9 percent, while HK Land retreated 1.2 percent, SembCorp Marine shed 0.4 percent, SIA Engineering eased 0.3 percent and KS Energy dropped 3 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is inconclusive as stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance on Friday after showing a strong upward move in the previous session. Nonetheless, optimism that European finance ministers will approve a new bailout package for Greece on Monday helped to keep traders from doing much profit taking.

The markets largely shrugged off a report from the Labor Department showing that its consumer price index rose by 0.2 percent in January after coming in unchanged in the previous month. Economists had expected an increase of 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index also rose by 0.2 percent in January after edging up by 0.1 percent in December - in line with economist estimates.

A separate report from the Conference Board showed that its index of leading economic indicators increased for the fourth consecutive month in January. The leading economic index rose by 0.4 percent in January following a revised 0.5 percent increase in December. Economists had been expecting the index to increase by 0.5 percent compared to the 0.4 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Among individual stocks, food maker H.J. Heinz (HNZ) rose by 4.6 percent after reporting stronger than expected third quarter earnings and narrowing its full year earnings outlook. Meanwhile, shares of Nordstrom (JWN) fell by 2 percent after the upscale department store operator reported better than expected fourth quarter earnings but forecast full year 2012 earnings below analyst estimates.

The major averages ended the session mixed, with the tech-heavy NASDAQ posting a loss of 8.07 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 2,951.78. The Dow climbed 45.79 points or 0.4 percent to 12,989.87 and the S&P 500 edged up 3.19 points or 0.2 percent to 1,361.23. The major averages all moved higher for the week. The Dow rose by 1.2 percent to its best closing level in well over three years, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 advanced 1.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

On the economic front, Singapore's non-oil exports contracted in January due to a fall in electronic product shipments, the International Enterprises Singapore said on Friday. Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) decreased 2.1 percent year-on-year in January, in contrast to the 9 percent increase in the previous month. This was mainly due to a decline in electronic shipments which outweighed the increase in overseas sales of non-electronic products.

Economists had forecast a 1.6 percent annual decline in NODX. On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, NODX grew 0.9 percent in January, following the previous month's 14 percent expansion. Annually, electronic NODX contracted 11 percent after the December's 4.2 percent fall. Exports of non-electronic products grew 3.3 percent, following the 18 percent rise in the previous month. The increase in non-electronic NODX was led by pharmaceuticals, electrical machinery and civil engineering equipment parts.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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