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Hong Kong Stock Market May Find Traction On Monday

The Hong Kong stock market has finished lower now in three straight sessions, retreating almost 500 points or 2.4 percent along the way. The Hang Seng Index finished just above the 20,550-point plateau, and now analysts are forecasting a modest rebound at the opening of trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is upbeat after Eurozone finance ministers decided to raise the combined size of the region's bailout funds to prevent the possible spillover of the debt crisis in some member states - although mixed economic data could limit the upside. The European markets finished higher and the U.S. bourses were mixed - and the Asian markets are tipped to split the difference.

The Hang Seng finished slightly lower on Friday, weighed by heavy losses from the property sector.

For the day, the index fell 53.81 points or 0.26 percent to finish at 20,555.58 after trading between 20,374.03 and 20,566.09 on volume of 73.68 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the actives, Sun Hung Kai Properties plummeted 13 percent after that company's billionaire owners were arrested as part of a corruption probe. Tingyi led the gainers with a 3.7 percent jump.

The lead from Wall Street suggests mild upside as stocks were lackluster on Friday, with traders expressing uncertainty about the outlook for the markets following the strong first quarter. The choppy trading came as traders seemed reluctant to make any significant moves on the heels of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data.

The Commerce Department reported that personal spending rose 0.8 percent in February following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in January. Economists had expected an increase of 0.6 percent following the 0.2 percent growth originally reported for the previous month. Meanwhile, personal income edged up 0.2 percent in February, matching the downwardly revised increase in January. Personal income had been expected to increase by 0.4 percent.

A separate report from Reuters and the University of Michigan showed that the consumer sentiment index for March was upwardly revised to a reading of 76.2 from the preliminary reading of 74.3. With the upward revision, the March reading is up from 75.3 in February and above forecasts of 75.0.

On the other hand, the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago reported that its business barometer fell to 62.2 in March from 64.0 in February, although a reading above 50 still indicates an increase in business activity. Economists had expected the index to show a more modest drop to a reading of 63.0.

Among individual stocks, Research In Motion (RIMM) spiked 7.1 percent even though the BlackBerry maker reported weaker than expected fourth quarter results. The company also said it expects continued pressure on revenue and earnings throughout fiscal 2013.

The major U.S. averages were mixed on Friday, with the tech-heavy NASDAQ edging down 3.79 points or 0.1 percent to finish at 3,091.57. The Dow rose 66.22 points or 0.5 percent to end at 13,212.04 and the S&P 500 climbed 5.19 points or 0.4 percent to close at 1,408.47. Despite the mixed performance, the major averages all moved sharply higher for the first quarter. The Dow advanced by 8.1 percent for the quarter, while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 surged up by 18.7 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

by RTT Staff Writer

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