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South Korea Stocks May Tick Lower On Monday

2/26/2012 6:32 PM ET

The South Korea stock market has alternated between positive and negative finishes through the last four trading days since the end of the two-day winning streak in which it had gathered more than 25 points or 1.2 percent. The KOSPI settled just shy of the 2,020-point plateau, and now analysts are forecasting a slightly lower open for the markets on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a hint of downside as investors figure to remain cautious regarding lingering concerns over the debt situation in Europe, as well as geopolitical tensions concerning Syria and Iran. Steel and oil companies are expected to provide support, with gold and airlines called lower. The European and U.S. markets were mixed but little changed on Friday, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow suit.

The KOSPI finished modestly higher on Friday as gains from the technology stocks and brokerages were dented by selling among the automobile producers.

For the day, the index added 12.09 points or 0.60 percent to finish at 2,019.89 after trading between 1,998.39 and 2,019.90. Volume was 709 million shares worth 5.64 trillion won. There were 490 gainers and 323 decliners.

Among the actives, Woori Investment & Securities jumped 4.4 percent, while Kiwoom Securities spiked 5 percent, Samsung Electronics collected 1.72 percent, LG Electronics added 0.48 percent and Hyundai Motor shed 1.14 percent.

The lead from Wall Street remains ambiguous as stocks showed a lack of direction on Friday with traders reluctant to make any significant moves. The major averages lingered near the unchanged line for most of the session, eventually ending the day mixed pending questions about whether the global economic situation supports further upside for the markets.

Traders largely shrugged off a report from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan showing that the consumer sentiment index for February was upwardly revised to 75.3 from the mid-month reading of 72.5. Economists had expected the index to be upwardly revised to 73.0 after showing 75.0 in January. The index is now at its highest level since February of 2011.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that new home sales slipped 0.9 percent to an annual rate of 321,000 in January from the revised December rate of 324,000. Economists had expected new home sales to edge up to 315,000 from the 307,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Among individual stocks, Nordson (NDSN) and Salesforce.com (CRM) posted strong gains after reporting better than expected quarterly results. Meanwhile, J.C. Penney (JCP) ended the day modestly lower after the department store operator reported a fourth quarter loss compared to a year-ago profit. Excluding restructuring charges, however, the company reported a profit that exceeded analyst estimates.

After reaching a high above the key 13,000 level, the Dow gave back some ground, closing down 1.74 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 12,982.95. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ rose 6.77 points or 0.2 percent to 2,963.75 and the S&P 500 climbed 2.25 points or 0.2 percent to 1,365.74. Despite the mixed performance on the day, the major averages all posted modest gains for the week. The NASDAQ advanced by 0.4 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 both rose by 0.3 percent.

In economic news, South Korea's consumer confidence strengthened in February largely due to signs of life from the U.S. economy, the Bank of Korea said on Friday. The sentiment index returned to the benchmark of 100 from 98 in January. A reading of 100 suggests that the number of optimists on the future economy is equal to the number of pessimists. The survey based on responses from 2,062 households showed that sentiment on current living standards rose to 86 from 83, while that concerning the outlook improved by 4 points to 94 in February.

by RTT Staff Writer

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