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Hong Kong Stock Market May Reverse Friday's Losses

The Hong Kong stock market headed south again on Friday, one session after it had ended the four-day losing streak in which it had retreated almost 500 points or 2.4 percent. The Hang Seng Index finished just below the 20,670-point plateau, and now investors may be tempted to scoop up bargains when the market opens 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 Hang Seng finished sharply lower on Friday following heavy damage among the property stocks and retailers.

For the day, the index plummeted 232.76 points or 1.11 percent to finish at 20,668.80 after trading between 20,596.89 and 20,742.70 on volume of 53.34 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the decliners, Sino Land dropped 4.7 percent, while Sun Hung Kai fell 3.2 percent, Henderson Land shed 3.2 percent and China Resources Enterprise plunged 3 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.

On the political front, self-made businessman CY Leung was elected as Hong Kong's new chief executive, at the end of a scandal-marred campaign. Leung will replace Donald Tsang, who has served in this post for two terms and cannot run for the post again. Leung, the son of a policeman, was seen earlier as having only a slim chance to win. However, China, which had supported rival Henry Tang, changed its stance later as Tang was faced with a series of scandals.

In economic news, China and Indonesia agreed on Friday to strengthen consultation and cooperation so as to raise their bilateral strategic partnership to new heights. Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in talks in Beijing also agreed to expand practical cooperation between the two countries and also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern. Hu said since the establishment of the strategic partnership, bilateral links had seen healthy and rapid growth with fruitful cooperation in various areas.

by RTT Staff Writer

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