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Singapore Stock Market May Challenge 3,000-Point Level

The Singapore stock market bounced right back to the upside again on Friday, one session after it had ended the modest two-day winning streak in which it had collected almost 15 points or 0.5 percent. The Straits Times Index finished just above the 2,990-point plateau, and now investors are looking for additional support at the opening of trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed with a slight upside bias, with disappointing economic data from the United States offset by solid corporate earnings news. The European markets were mixed but little changed and the U.S. bourses ended slightly higher - and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.

The STI finished modestly higher on Friday following gains from the properties, industrials and casinos.

For the day, the index collected 10.83 points or 0.36 percent to finish at 2,990.08 after trading between 2,980.53 and 2,994.29 on volume of 1.64 billion shares. There were 193 gainers and 160 decliners.

Among the gainers, Genting spiked 6.8 percent, while CapitaMall Trust jumped 2.3 percent, SembCorp Industries climbed 2.4 percent and Hyflux collected 1.7 percent.

The lead from Wall Street offers mild support as stocks finished a choppy day of trading in positive territory on Friday, overcoming an early dip to end the session with modest gains.

Shares dropped in early trading, threatening to continue a bout of profit taking that has marked most of the week. The morning slide came on the heels of disappointing new home sales data, which showed an unexpected decline for February. New home sales fell 1.6 percent in February, dropping to a pace of 313,000 homes. Prices were up, however, climbing 8.3 percent to $233,700.

On the corporate scene, Darden Restaurants (DRI) said its quarterly profit rose 8 percent from last year. The bottom line at the owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurant chains was boosted by sales that climbed to $2.2 billion from about $2 billion last year.

Micron Technology (MU) announced a loss for its latest quarter, reversing a profit posted in the same period last year. Sales and margins at the memory chip maker both deteriorated.

Nike (NKE) revealed a quarterly profit that rose 7 percent from last year. The athletic shoe maker said its revenue jumped 15 percent to nearly $5.9 billion.

IT services company Accenture (ACN) reported a stronger-than-expected rise in its quarterly profit. The company benefited from revenue growth across all operating groups. Accenture also raised its expectations for the full year.

Stocks quickly snapped back, although it took the NASDAQ most of the day to get back into positive territory. The major averages eventually finished the session higher. The Dow gained 34.59 points or 0.27 percent to finish at 13,080.73, while the NASDAQ advanced 4.60 points or 0.15 percent to end at 3,067.92. The S&P 500 climbed 4.33 points or 0.31 percent to close at 1,397.11.

In economic news, Singapore will on Monday provide industrial production figures for February, with forecasts suggesting an increase of 3.3 percent on month and a contraction of 8.8 percent on year. That follows the 4.1 percent monthly gain and the 18.4 percent annual surge in January.

Also, Singapore's annual inflation eased unexpectedly in February largely on account of lower contributions from food prices and services fees, a joint release from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore showed on Friday.

Inflation slowed to 4.6 percent from 4.8 percent a month ago. Economists were expecting the annual rate to rise to 5 percent. Month-on-month, consumer prices dipped 0.3 percent, after rising 0.9 percent in the preceding month.

Excluding the costs of accommodation and private road transport, MAS core inflation slowed to 3 percent annually in February from 3.5 percent in January.

Both CPI and MAS core inflation will remain elevated over the next few months, at around 5 percent and 3 percent year-on-year, respectively before moderating gradually, the ministry said.

Finally, the arrival of tourists in Singapore is expected to grow at a slower rate this year, amid a challenging external environment and persisting domestic constraints, S Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry said at a tourism conference.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board, tourist arrivals in the country is expected to rise to 13.5-14.5 million in 2012, marking a slower growth compared to the 13.8 percent rise recorded last year, the minister said.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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