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Hong Kong Stock Market May Find Traction

3/21/2012 9:18 PM ET

The Hong Kong stock market has finished lower now in four straight sessions, declining almost 500 points or 2.4 percent in that span. The Hang Seng Index settled just above the 20,855-point plateau, and now traders are hoping to end the losing streak when the market opens on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed, with the markets drawing support from the U.K. budget speech that suggested the British economy is seen expanding faster than expected earlier. On the downside, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called Europe's financial economic situation difficult, while the National Association of Realtors reported a modest drop in existing home sales in February. The European and U.S. markets ended mixed but little changed, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow that lead.

The Hang Seng finished slightly lower on Wednesday following losses from the property stocks and resource plays.

For the day, the index eased 31.61 points or 0.15 percent to finish at 20,856.63 after trading between 20,756.03 and 20,993.48 on volume of 61.25 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the decliners, China Coal dropped 2.8 percent, while China Resources Power retreated 2.8 percent, Cheung Kong shed 2.1 percent, China Resources Land lost 2.1 percent and Sun Hung Kai Properties fell 1.7 percent.

The lead from Wall Street provides little clarity as stocks showed a lack of direction on Wednesday, with traders reluctant to make any significant moves. The choppy trading came after stocks ended the previous session mostly lower but well off their worst levels.

While recent indicators have pointed to a continued recovery by the U.S. economy, some analysts believe the markets need to stage a temporary correction before they can see any further upside. At the same time, traders have largely seemed hesitant to cash in on the recent gains amid concerns that stocks could leg up further on more upbeat data.

Traders shrugged off a report from the National Association of Realtors showing that existing home sales slipped 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January. Economists had expected existing home sales to edge up to 4.61 million from the 4.57 million in the previous month. The drop came after sales surged by an upwardly revised 5.7 percent in January.

Among individual stocks, shares of Oracle (ORCL) turned lower despite stronger than expected adjusted third quarter earnings amid a notable increase in new software license revenues. Business uniform supplier Cintas (CTAS) also ended the day in the red despite reporting better than expected third quarter earnings and raising its full year earnings guidance above estimates.

The major averages ended the session mixed, with the NASDAQ inching up 1.17 points or less than a tenth of a percent to finish at 3,075.32, while the Dow fell 45.57 points or 0.4 percent to end at 13,124.62 and the S&P 500 slipped 2.63 points or 0.2 percent to 1,402.89.

In economic news, Hong Kong will on Thursday announce February's inflation rate and Q4 current account numbers. The inflation rate is expected to come in at 5.2 percent, down from 6.1 percent in January. The current account saw a surplus of $33.66 billion in the third quarter.

by RTT Staff Writer

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