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South Korea Stocks May Reverse Thursday Losses

The South Korea stock market gave up less than a pair of points on Thursday - but that was enough to halt the two-day winning streak in which it had collected more than 40 points or 2 percent. The KOSPI now rests just below the 2,045-point plateau, and now traders are hopeful that the market will bounce higher again when the market opens on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with an upside bias, thanks to bargain hunting and better than expected economic data from the United States. Capping the upside, Fitch Ratings downgraded the UK's credit rating outlook to 'negative' from 'stable,' citing the economy's vulnerability to adverse economic shocks. The European markets were mixed but little changed and the U.S. bourses were slightly higher, and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.

The KOSPI finished barely lower on Thursday as gains from the technology stocks and automobile producers were wiped out by weakness from the oil producers.

For the day, the index eased 1.32 points or 0.06 percent to finish at 2,043.76 after trading between 2,038.60 and 2,050.48 on volume of 470.9 million shares.

Among the actives, LG Display jumped 3.53 percent, while Hyundai Mobis added 1.03 percent, Orion Corp spiked 4.33 percent, CJ Corp surged 4.12 percent, SK Innovation shed 2.87 percent and S-Oil fell 3.7 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is cautiously optimistic as stocks moved higher on Thursday, extending recent gains. The markets benefited from positive U.S. economic data as the Labor Department reported a bigger than expected drop in initial jobless claims last week, to 351,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 365,000. Economists had expected claims to drop to 355,000 from 362,000. With the decrease, jobless claims matched the four-year low that was set in the week ended February 11.

A separate report from the New York Federal Reserve showed a continued expansion in regional manufacturing activity, with the index of activity in the sector showing an unexpected increase. Additionally, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve also showed a continued increase in regional manufacturing activity.

On the inflation front, the Labor Department said its producer price index rose 0.4 percent in February following a 0.1 percent increase in January versus forecasts for a gain of 0.5 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core producer price index edged up 0.2 percent in February compared to a 0.4 percent increase in the previous month - in line with economist estimates.

In corporate news, shares of Radvision (RVSN) rose 4.5 percent after the Israeli video conferencing company agreed to be acquired by Avaya for $11.85 per share in cash. The deal values Radvision at $230 million. Meanwhile, Guess (GES) bucked the uptrend after the clothing maker reported weaker than expected Q4 revenues and forecast first quarter results well below estimates.

The major averages closed firmly in positive territory, near their best levels of the day. The Dow rose 58.66 point or 0.4 percent to finish at 13,252.76, while the NASDAQ climbed 15.64 points or 0.5 percent to 3,056.37 and the S&P 500 advanced 8.32 points or 0.6 percent to 1,402.60.

With the gains on the day, the major averages once again reached new multi-year closing highs. The S&P 500 closed above 1,400 for the first time since June of 2008, while the Dow reached a new four-year closing high and the NASDAQ set a new eleven-year closing high.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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